49ers cut DT Robert Nkemdiche, another setback for former first-round draft pick

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The San Francisco 49ers released former first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche to meet Tuesday's NFL-mandated 85-man roster cut.

The release marks the latest career blow for the veteran defensive tackle, whom the Arizona Cardinals selected with the 29th pick of the 2016 draft. In six seasons since being drafted, Nkemdiche has played in 38 games, including six starts for three different teams. The 49ers would have been his fourth team.

The Cardinals selected Nkemdiche out of Ole Miss as the presumed long-term anchor of their defensive line. Injuries limited him to five games as a rookie, when he recorded a single tackle for the season. Then-head coach Bruce Arians publicly questioned his maturity at the time.

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 1: Robert Nkemdiche #50 of the San Francisco 49ers during training camp at the SAP Performance Facility on August 1, 2022 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Robert Nkemdiche
Robert Nkemdiche is searching for his next NFL opportunity after being released by the 49ers. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The Cardinals eventually released him in 2019 after three seasons produced 4.5 sacks and 59 tackles in 27 games. Then-rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters that Nkemdiche showed up to training camp out of shape after tearing his ACL at the end of the previous season.

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The Dolphins signed Nkemdiche after his Cardinals release. He was reportedly unable to run across the width of an NFL field and back during a preseason warmup after he joined the Dolphins. They placed him on the active/PUP list and eventually waived him after two regular-season games.

Nkemdiche missed the entire 2020 season before returning to the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021. He played in nine games with Seattle, tallying 15 tackles and a single quarterback hit with no sacks. He signed with the 49ers as a free agent in July before becoming a casualty of roster cutdowns on Tuesday.