Barry Sims met with the 49ers brass yesterday and continues a brief NFL tour that includes the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams. I'd certainly have preferred that Sims have visited Santa Clara and quickly signed with the team. Unfortunately that is not the case and we get a little competition for his services. The question becomes who has the best shot of landing him and where does he actually end up. I had thought about a poll but I'd rather just hear the reasons why people think he'll end up in a given location. So I thought I'd put together a breakdown of the different situations, helped in great part by Maiocco's article linked above. Most guys in the league are motivated by either a big paycheck, significant playing time or both. Let's see what each situation brings to the table. I was going to look at the salary cap situation for each team, but I'm struggling to find that information. Google searches revealed May updates by John Clayton of each team's status but I can't find it for 2008. If anybody can find that information, it would certainly be useful for potentially knocking out a team that lacks the kind of space the 49ers should still have.
San Francisco 49ers: Joe Staley and Jonas Jennings are slotted in as the tackles.
Beyond that, the team certainly has some issues, particularly considering Jennings' injury history. The current backups are Damane Duckett and Chilo Rachal, a man who hasn't played the tackle position full time since high school. They've got an assortment of bodies that could move over to the tackle position, but it's not exactly a stable backup situation. Nonetheless, the 49ers offensive line situation has been discussed ad nauseum so we'll move on to the other teams in contention.
New England Patriots: The Patriots are a team you usually don't want to be competing against for free agents. They've become the premier franchise in the league and can sell many free agents on that winning atmosphere. Their current tackles are Matt Light and Nick Kaczur. Maiocco indicated Kaczur could be face disciplinary action following a recent drug possession charge. Kaczur's backup is former Cal lineman Ryan O'Callaghan and he seemed to do ok his first couple years in the league. Kaczur and O'Callaghan are both young guys, whereas Sims is 33. While I could see the Patriots bringing in Sims to push O'Callaghan, I'm not sure they would view him as anything more than a stopgap until Kaczur's problems are cleared up.
Baltimore Ravens: Jonathan Ogden is contemplating retirement, which would certainly be quite a blow to their offensive line. Baltimore Beatdown thought he'd return for another year back in January, but doesn't seem quite as sure now. If he does, it sounds like Adam Terry and Jared Gaither are the two main competitors for that left tackle spot opposite Marshall Yanda. Neither Gaither or Terry has a lot of experience and a veteran like Sims could be brought in to both work with them and push them for a starting spot. If the Ravens don't feel either guy is ready to be a starter, Sims could easily be pushed in. Sims has spent quite a bit of time at left tackle so he could certainly fit in there quite well.
St. Louis Rams: Simply put, the Rams have had some offensive line issues in the recent past. Orlando Pace has had injury issues and while Alex Barron is certainly a decent option at right tackle, they have a considerable lack of depth behind those two. If Pace can stay healthy he's still got plenty left in the tank, but the injuries are definitely something for the Rams to worry about. Unless Sims beat out Barron for a job, it seems like Sims would simply be an insurance policy against a Pace injury.
So where do I think he ends up after all this? I think the Ravens are a very real possibility. Jonathan Ogden seems to be leaning towards retirement and I could certainly see Sims getting a very good chance to win the left tackle job for now. He wouldn't be a long term answer for them, but he could prove a solid mentor to Gaither and Terry. Aside from the Ravens I do see the 49ers as a legitimate possibility. I do believe there is a possibility Jennings is not with the 49ers by the end of training camp. He is immensely talented and immensely fragile. Sims could be a short term solution considering he has not had major injury issues. While the Patriots can always seem to convince free agents of the allure of Foxboro, I would imagine they'd stick with the young guys, particularly since any discipline of Kaczur would not be all that long.
So, if I had to handicap this race I'd say: