It would seem that the 49ers are set at the tackle position right now, however, that is just the way it seems. Anthony Davis improved a great deal during his rookie season and should add to that in 2011. That said, it is the other tackle position that worries me the most. Joe Staley has missed 14 games over the course of the last two seasons, but when healthy he is an above average tackle.
Alex Boone has shown himself to be a pretty talented young tackle that should get into the mix in 2011. Undrafted from Ohio State in 209, Boone has impressed the coaching staff and should see action if Staley cannot go.
As I said, it just seems the 49ers are set at the tackle position because they are not. Barry Sims, the primary back up over the last couple years, is a free agent; San Francisco will have to find a replacement for him or attempt to retain his services. I doubt San Francisco is going to take a look at the most heralded free agent tackles, but after the jump I will go into detail in regards to this position as it relates to free agency.
Unrestricted Free Agents with four or more years of service.
Note: Approximate Value is a formula that Pro Football Reference uses in order to indicate the worth of a particular player. The higher the number, the more value said player has for his team.
Khalif Barnes, Oakland Raiders
Approximate Value: 3 62 Career Starts in Six NFL Seasons
Analysis: I guess you could say that Barnes has been a solid offensive tackle over the course of his six years in the NFL. He isn't flashy, but tends to get the job done in the running game. I am not sure that he would be much of an upgrade over Staley, if at all. Additionally, Barnes will be looking for a starting job, so you can eliminate him filling the role that Sims filled the last couple seasons.
Alex Barron, Dallas Cowboys
Approximate Value: 1 75 Career Starts in Six NFL Seasons
Analysis: An incredible bust, Barron was a 1st round pick of the Rams a couple years ago and never panned out. Moving on to Dallas in 2010 really didn't help either. San Francisco already has a project guard in Alex Boone, so I doubt they will look this way.
Jammal Brown, Washington Redskins
Approximate Value: 6 72 Career Starts in Five NFL Seasons (Two Time Pro Bowl Selection)
Analysis: You have to prioritize in free agency, and right now spending 40-50 million on a tackle probably wouldn't be the 49ers first priority. That said, Brown would be an upgrade over Joe Staley if the 49ers could find any takers for the injury plagued tackle.
Tyson Clabo, Atlanta Falcons
Approximate Value: 10 69 Career Starts in Five NFL Seasons (2010 Pro Bowl Selection)
Analysis: one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL, Atlanta is has some difficult decisions to make when free agency starts. Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl, both guards, are set to be free agents as well.
I would tend to think that Atlanta will make it a priority to re-sign Clabo this off-season, but at what cost? Are the willing to pony up top five tackle money for him? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, he would be a major upgrade for San Francisco.
Willie Colon, Pittsburgh Steelers
Approximate Value: 7 50 Career Starts in Five NFL Seasons
Analysis: Pittsburgh has a knack for finding studs like Colon late in the round or in free agency. They also have a history of letting said players walk when they reach their contract year. I don't think that Colon will be any different; he will probably find a nice pay day somewhere else. As for the 49ers, I am not sure he is an upgrade over what they currently have.
Doug Free, Dallas Cowboys
Approximate Value: 8 23 Career Starts in Four NFL Seasons
Analysis: Dallas has said that re-signing Free is their top priority this off-season, but that is much easier said than done. The Cowboys are not in an envious salary cap position and may look for a cheaper alternative to Free, who is going to get a long term contract topping out at about 50 million.
That salary figure leads me to believe that the 49ers will not be making a strong push for Free, who would be an immediate upgrade over Staley.
Ryan Harris, Denver Broncos
Approximate Value: 6 34 Career Starts in Four NFL Seasons
Analysis: Ryan Harris has a lot of talent, but injuries are a major concern. He was dominating in college and has shown flashes of the same thing for Denver, however, they may be ready to move on and get a player with a better injury history.
Harris would be a nice upgrade over Barry Sims as the primary back up for Joe Staley. However, I doubt that he wants to be a back up in the NFL, that may be his only choice. Hopefully the 49ers look deep into signing Harris.
Matt Light, New England Patriots
Approximate Value: 14 138 Career Starts in Ten NFL Seasons(Three Time Pro Bowl Selection)
Analysis: New England is ready to move on and so is Matt Light. Look for him to get a nice three or four year contract somewhere else. He has been one of the most consistent offensive tackles in the NFL over the last decade and even at his age will get a lot of play on the free agent market. I doubt San Francisco takes a look at him.
Sean Lockler, Seattle Seahawks
Approximate Value: 6 78 Career Starts in Seven NFL Seasons
Analysis: Pretty consistent over the years, Locklear isn't great in pass protection but is awesome in the run game. Seattle seems ready to move on, so expect him to be playing elsewhere in 2011, probably not for the 49ers.
Chester Pitts, Seattle Seahawks
Approximate Value: 2 119 Career Starts in Nine NFL Seasons
Analysis: San Francisco came pretty close to signing Pitts a couple of years ago, but he decided on Seattle. Well, that wasn't a great career move for him. Now, he doesn't have great value and will be overlooked in the free agent market. This could benefit San Francisco as they may bring Pitts in with a small short term contract..
Marshall Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
Approximate Value: 9 42 Career Starts in Four NFL Seasons
Analysis: Baltimore will probably make a strong push to re-sign Yanda because of the possible departure of Jared Gaither. Michael Oher is an all-pro tackle and Baltimore would have nice book ends with him and Yanda. That said, the former Iowa Hawkeye standout sure get a lot of interest in the open market. Is he an upgrade over Joe Staley? Somehow I doubt it.
Restricted Free Agents
Jared Gaither, Baltimore Ravens
Approximate Value: 6 28 Career Starts in Three NFL Seasons
Contract Situation: Given 1st and 3rd round tender by Baltimore, but they drafted a possible replacement in Jah Reid and have Marshall Yanda as a possibility. Either way, Gaither will be a restricted free agent under the new collective bargaining agreement, once it is signed.
Analysis: Back problems have limited Gaither's productivity and opportunity to stay on the field. Some scouts say that these back problems are going to be a career long issue, but that Gaither can play through the pain. If so, he is going to be highly coveted, even as a restricted free agent.
The Ravens will probably look into trading Gaither once the off-season begins, and they may have a fit in San Francisco is Staley is able to be moved. This is a highly unlikely scenario; Detroit seems like a much better fit.
Barry Richardson, Kansas City Chiefs
Approximate Value: 8 17 Career Starts in Three NFL Seasons
Contract Situation: Given an unknown tender by the Kansas City Chiefs, and will be an unrestricted free agent because of his three years NFL experience.
Analysis: Started all 16 games for Kansas City and was extremely solid, improving as the season went on. There is no way the Chiefs let Richardson walk, so look for him to be playing at Arrowhead in 2011.
Overview; I really don't think the 49ers have the need or financial flexibility to go after one of the top tier tackles once free agency begins. Anthony Davis is an up and coming tackle in the NFL and he promises to get better. When healthy,, Joe Staley is an above average tackle. San Francisco also have Alex Boone waiting to be unleashed upon unsuspecting defensive ends.
The 49ers will attempt to bring back Barry Sims if the price is right. If not, they will be looking for a veteran back up to replace him. There are some options listed above, but most players listed expect to be full time starters in 2011, and San Francisco really cannot offer that.
One unlikely scenario is the 49ers gauging the market for Joe Staley and replacing him with a Doug Free or Tyson Clabo. As it stands, guard seems like more of a need for San Francisco a long the offensive line. I will be addressing that position later this week.
Current 49er Offensive Tackles
Approximate Value: 8 16 Starts in Only NFL Season
Approximate Value: 4 50 Career Starts in Four NFL Seasons
Approximate Value: 3 140 Career Starts in Twelve NFL Seasons (Unrestricted Free Agent)
Approximate Value: N/A 0 Career Starts in Two NFL Seasons