The 49ers spent a good amount of capital and salary caps in the first four years that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were responsible for building the offensive line. Despite throwing resources at this group, the offensive line struggled through 2020 and allowed the most quarterback hits of any team in the NFL. Let’s take a look at which tackles the 49ers will keep and which ones they will release.
The 49ers signed a deal with Washington during the draft to bring the Pro Bowl tackle to San Francisco and sent the soccer team a selection for Round 5 in 2020 and a selection for Round 3 in 2021. Despite some initial issues, expecting not to play in 2019 and not starting off-season activities until training camp, the veteran made Joe Staley’s transition seamless.
Williams started 14 games and often showed his athleticism by going down for blockades in space, along with the strength to move defensive linemen into the trenches. In addition to his on-the-fly skills, Williams was excellent at pass protection, only allowing four sacks. All of this resulted in Williams being inducted into the Pro Bowl for the eighth time in the past nine years.
Keep or Share: Share unless they decide to overpay
Williams only had a year left on his contract, and as part of the deal, the 49ers agreed that they would not use the franchise tag on Williams and let him make a free choice. The 49ers scrambled to re-sign Williams in the final weeks of the regular season, but the veteran declined, saying he wanted to see what a free-hand Pro Bowl tackle would do.
To bring Williams back, the 49ers will likely have to give him something on par with what the Packers gave David Bakhtiari in November, $ 23 million a year. Williams is a little older than Bakhtiari so the price might be a little lower, but it will likely still be in the $ 19 million to $ 21 million range. This is a huge achievement for a player who turns 33 at the start of the season and hasn’t played a full season since 2013.
The problem for San Francisco is they don’t have a suitable replacement on the list, and the crop of free agents is a pretty steep decline, with the exception of possibly Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
McGlinchey drew the ire of 49ers fans almost every week in 2020. While he continued to be an above-average run blocker, his already questionable ability as a pass guard fell sharply. McGlinchey’s fights were especially blatant when asked to guard for a straight back relapse. In these situations, it was not uncommon for the pass rusher to penetrate McGlinchey’s chest during a bullfight and drive him into the quarterback’s lap or climb to his outer shoulder and walk around pressure or sack.
How is McGlinchey improving? He came into camp much slower than in years past, the lack of team activity and the ability to work with the 49ers coaches might have something to do with it, and McGlinchey has noticed that he is looking to add some weight this off-season.
Not only does McGlinchey need to add some weight, he also needs to work on his technique with new offensive line coaches Chris Foerster and Butch Barry from 49ers. Far too often you will see McGlinchey not using his hands to prevent the rusher from entering his body. Since it usually plays too high at this point, it no longer has any leverage and can be pushed back like a blocking slide.
Keep or Share: Keep
McGlinchey isn’t going anywhere. The earlier selection for the first round will be back as a jump start for 2021. The only question here is whether the 49ers will choose McGlinchey’s option for the fifth year. The 49ers have until May 3 to decide, and McGlinchey’s salary, if they actually did take the option, would be the average of the 10 highest-paid salaries among the tackles from last year, which is likely in the range of 13.5 Million dollars.
The 2019 round 6 selection had two starts in the left tackle instead of Trent Williams, Green Bay, and the second game in Seattle, and they didn’t go well. While the professional was able to keep up in the running game in the second year, he fought hard with the pass protection.
The decline in Skule’s performance is odd, especially considering how well he played when he was forced onto the starting grid as a rookie. If Joe Staley went down with an injury by the end of week two and beat the Cincinnati Bengals, Skule would get the call. In its first seven starts, Skule was more than able to assert itself and downplay any offensive. The 49ers won all seven competitions. Then came the Monday night contest against Green Bay, and Skule’s fights incapacitated the 49ers offensive until he was eventually replaced by Daniel Brunskill.
In addition to his two starts on the left tackle, Skule also made two starts on the right tackle. Having never played the position before, he did pretty well. Showing this kind of versatility could be a good sign for Skule going forward.
Keep or Share: Keep
Skule will be back on the team in 2021. If the new offensive line coaches can bring him back to who he was at the start of 2019, he may be a starting caliber tackle, or at least a solid swing tackle.
Coleman, a 2016 round 3 Cleveland Brown selection, was acquired by Cleveland for a 7th round selection in the late stages of training camp in 2018. Coleman was supposed to be the swing tackle, but Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey stayed sane. he was never called. In 2019, the expectation was again that Coleman would be the swing tackle, but he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula during the first preseason game and was lost for the season. Coleman would then opt out of the 2020 season.
Keep or release: Compete with Skule in the warehouse
Due to the departure from the 2020 season, Coleman is still under contract with San Francisco for 2021. Expect him to compete with Justin Skule for the swing tackle role.
Shepley signed with the 49ers towards the end of training camp and spent most of 2020 on the training team. He was named to the active squad for week 14 before returning to the training team.
Before joining San Francisco, Shepley spent 2018 training camp with the New York Jets but was cut after the third preseason game. He would then play with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League in 2019 and be named the Roughriders Outstanding Rookie.
Shepley signed a reserve / future contract in January and will be back for camp with the 49ers in 2021.
Williams was originally signed by Washington as an unoccupied free agent in 2016. Since then, he has spent time on the training team of six other NFL teams and played time in the AAF and XFL. He was inducted into the 49ers practice group that led to the Dallas game for which he was active.
Keep or Release: Will be in stock
Williams signed a reserve / future deal in January and will be back for camp with the 49ers in 2021.
* All statistics courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and sports-reference.com
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