49ers trade favorite of previous regime, Vance McDonald

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers signed Vance McDonald to a three-year, $19.65 million contract extension on Dec. 10, 2016. It was a strange move at the time because the team was 1-11 and clearly preparing to fire general manager Trent Baalke.

McDonald will not get a chance to play a regular season game under the new regime of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The tight end was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday for an undisclosed draft pick, the 49ers announced.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports the Niners received a fourth-round selection in exchange.

“We would like to thank Vance for his contributions to this organization on the field and in the community over the last four seasons,” Lynch said in a news release.

McDonald was the 49ers’ leading receiver in three games last season and caught seven touchdowns over his 48-game career.

The trade should open up more time for George Kittle and Logan Paulsen, while giving some assurance to Garrett Celek that he’ll make the team.

Now primed to the be the starter, Kittle was once backup quarterback CJ Beathard’s teammate at the University of Iowa. The offense Kirk Ferentz ran there has drawn several comparisons to Shanahan’s.

“We had pretty similar offenses, so they thought I could fit their scheme pretty well,” Kittle said on Tuesday. “I just tried to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I think I did that pretty early on in OTAs. And so they kept feeding me more and more.”

Kyle Juszczyk will be another player utilized out of the tight end position with McDonald gone. He’s a fullback who practices with different positions and has proven himself a valuable pass catcher and blocker.

“I like to think that I bring a little more athleticism to the fullback position than usual,” he said.

jpalmer@sfexaminer.com

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