This morning I am going to take a look at the guard position as it relates to the upcoming (hopefully) free agent period. The 49ers got a steal in the middle of the 1st round last season with Mike Iupati. Moving forward we can expect him to be a perennial all-pro performer. However, where do the 49ers go at the other guard position?
Chilo Rachal hasn't lived up to expectations over the last couple of seasons after initially showing a nice level of talent at guard. After that, the 49ers really do not have a lot of internal options that jump out at me. Of course, Adam Snyder will "always" be there, Tony Wragge has played the position, we could move Heitmann to his natural college position or we could find an external option.
After the jump, I am going to take a look at some external options for San Francisco once free agency starts. Keep in mind that I have been an advocate of the 49ers upgrading this position via free agency, and that hasn't changed over the course of the last few months.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Approximate Value: 6 62 Starts in Four NFL Seasons
Analysis: One of three Atlanta Falcon free agent starting offensive linemen, they are going to have to cut their losses somewhere. Blalock seems like a good bet to stay with Atlanta considering his age, but that isn't a guarantee because is may be the weakest of those three free agents.
I do believe that he would be a good fit for the 49ers opposite Mike Iupati. It would take a longer term commitment in terms of the contract, but San Francisco would be able to absorb a 5-6 million dollar annual hit at this position.
Approximate Value: 6 47 Starts in Five NFL Seasons
Analysis: Not the most physically gifted guard of the groups, Chester does have his limits. He isn't the greatest rush blocker in the world, but tends to fend of interior rushers. I am not sure he would be a major upgrade over what we currently have on the roster.
Approximate Value: 8 76 Starts in Five NFL Seasons
Analysis: I think that Colledge is extremely underrated, Green Bay doesn't seem to respect what he does and how he does it. He would be an immediate upgrade over anyone the 49ers have to play opposite Iupati. Additionally, I don't think that Colledge would cost more than 4-5 million annually. He would be a nice addition to the 49ers and is currently in his prime.
Harvey Dahl, Atlanta Falcons
Approximate Value: 8 43 Starts in Five NFL Seasons
Analysis: Arguably the Falcons best offensive linemen the last couple of years, they may have to make the difficult decision to let him walk. There are a few different reasons why I say that. Both Tyson Clabo and Justin Blalock (mentioned above) are younger and will perform at a higher level longer than Dahl. Secondly, they cannot afford to dole out 20+ million annually to three offensive linemen.
Where does he fit with the 49ers? Well, he did start his career here; so that is a benefit as they have some history with one another. Dahl is a dominating presence physically in the interior of the offensive line and would team up with Iupati to make one of the best guard tandems in the NFL. I do think that San Francisco makes a strong push for Dahl if the situation arises.
Approximate Value: 4 201 Starts in Fourteen NFL Seasons (9 Time Pro Bowl Selection)
Analysis: Faneca had the poorest year of his NFL career last season and it appears his days as a top flight guard are over. I say "appears" because you can never discount a player of his caliber. If San Francisco was to bring him in it would be as competition for the starting guard spot with Rachal. Is Faneca prepared at this stage in his career to be in a training cap competition? And, is it fare to ask that of a player that has had so much success in the past? Those two answers a probably no.
Approximate Value: 6 91 Starts in Seven NFL Seasons
Anaylsis: Stay far far away from this player. It's not like Gallery isn't talented, his is. I have major issues with his on the field character as well as his injury history. Immediately after being drafted second overall, it was obvious that Gallery wasn't going to be the franchise tackle that Oakland had thought he would be. They moved him to guard, where he has played pretty darn well. That said, there are reports that Gallery is asking for top tier tackle money to play the guard position. That is just crazy, and may come to serve as a reminder of the type of player we don't want San Francisco to obtain via free agency.
Approximate Value: 6 67 Starts in Five NFL Seasons ( 1 Time Pro Bowl Selection)
Analysis: Joseph is one of the brightest young offensive linemen in the NFL. However, injury concerns may limit his payday this off-season. Additionally, the Buccaneers have so much cap room that I cannot fathom a scenario where they let a player of Joseph's caliber walk.
Approximate Value: 5 104 Starts in Nine NFL Seasons
Analysis: Another former 49er, Kosier has been a solid performer for the Dallas Cowboys over the course of the last few seasons. Still, I think that Rachal is a better player at this stage in his career than Kosier is. It is possible the 49ers could bring him in as a back-up, but look for Kosier to look for starting opportunities elsewhere.
Approximate Value: 11 89 Starts in Six NFL Seasons (3 Time Pro Bowl Selection)
Analysis; You can forget about obtaining his services, the Patriots made that perfectly clear by franchising him once again. Unless San Francisco wants to give up two 1st round picks after spending a 1st rounder on one in 2010; it isn't going to happen.
Of course, the 49ers could swing a trade with the Patriots, but I would be completely weary of any deals that involve that team.
Restricted Free Agent
Approximate Value: 12 45 Starts in Three NFL Seasons ( 1 Time Pro Bowl Selection)
Contract Situation: Will be a restricted free agent because of his three years of service time. The Saints placed the highest tender on Nicks (1st rounder).
Analysis: Now this may seem like a pipe dream to many of you, but I think there is a possibility that the 49ers go hard after Nicks. If the 49ers were to sign Nicks, the Saints would have the opportunity to match the offer and would receive a 1st round pick from San Francisco if they don't.
That said, Nicks is right up there with Mankins and yes Iupati as the best guards in the league. The question that needs to be asked; is he worth a 1st round pick? I am not too sure he isn't. Having Nicks and Iupati starting for the next 5-10 years would give San Francisco two all-pro performers in the middle of their offensive line.
Am I advocating the 49ers spend a 1st round pick to retain his services? No. But, he was born in San Francisco and they may be able to work out a trade with New Orleans; giving up less then a 1st rounder. Is it likely? No. But, it is extremely possible.