Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
Continuing our journey in examining the San Francisco 49ers 2019roster and the performance as well as the players’ contracts and what it means for the 2020season, the 49ers’ offensive line is among the most argued-about topic. An above-average group has people arguing over continuity and the ability to upgrade it outside of the roster.
The primary contributors’ contract situations look like this:
When it comes to the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive line, most everyone agrees that they have one of the best bookend combinations with Joe Staley at left tackle and Mike McGlinchey at right tackle. It’s the reading material in the middle that is often times cited as needing an improvement.
Starting left guard Laken Tomlinson started 16 games without injury for the first time since joining the 49ers organization, while both center Weston Richburg and right guard Mike Person missed several games, with Richburg ending the season on injured reserve.
Out of the three, Mike Person is the one who is most often times talked about as needing to be replaced. He was a journeyman offensive lineman before signing with the 49ers and earning a starting spot by beating out other journeymen and underperforming younger draft picks.
Richburg has shown that when he can stay healthy and be in the game on Sundays, he can be one of the best centers in the National Football League. The problem is, he hasn’t played a full 16 games since he’s joined the 49ers. Everyone knows that the most important skill in the NFL is availability, Richburg just hasn’t had it. He was having the best season of his three years with the 49ers before going down in Week 15 though, nearly lasting the whole season. His contract also dictates that he will be around for at least one more season. Don’t expect the 49ers to go pick up a replacement center for him, unless it’s a late draft pick to develop for down the road.
Rookie Justin Skule and free-agent pickups Daniel Brunskill and Ben Garland played huge roles in the past year’s Super Bowl run. Brunskill started at tackle and guard while Garland started at guard and center throughout the season as head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive-lineman Swiss Army knives. Garland started in Richburg’s place at center for the Super Bowl. Brunskill has already been tendered for a one year contract, bringing him back next season.
Beyond those eight players, it’s anyone’s guess on who else will make the final 53-man roster or be brought in to compete. The 49ers traded a draft pick for Shon Coleman a couple years back, and the team hasn’t seemed to be ready to part with him, even though he hasn’t made the 53-man roster yet. Person’s contract makes him replaceable, but his ability to play center and guard should keep him on the roster even if it’s only as a backup. Many people have floated the idea of using the team’s first draft pick, currently the 31st pick in the draft, on an interior offensive lineman, but Richburg’s contract, along with Shanahan’s lack of placing importance on guards, makes that pretty unlikely.
Both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have filled their center and guard positions with trades and free agents with connections to Shanahan’s previous stops in the league as offensive coordinator. There is no reason to believe that will change this off-season. The best bet is actually these top eight offensive lineman returning, with one or two added to the 53 man roster and practice squad.
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