The San Francisco 49ers have tried a variety of combinations on the offensive line, with Andrew Tiller and Trenton Brown slowly getting some work with the group. Daniel Kilgore said he anticipates starting practice following the bye, which would add another body to the mix. One player who has been on the roster, but done nothing, is Brandon Thomas.
The 49ers drafted Thomas in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He suffered an ACL tear in a workout a month before the Draft, dropping his stock. The 49ers spent a comp pick on him, with plans of stashing him for a year while he recovered from his ACL tear. A year later, he competed for work on the offensive line, but remains a reserve. Through nine games, he has been inactive eight times, and did not play a snap in his one active game.
What is the issue? Well, as we have learned, coming back from an ACL tear is not a certainty. Players frequently return from the injury, but it is still a devastating knee injury. Ryan Sakamoto attends practice, and he has repeatedly said Thomas gets bull-rushed too easily. I don't know how much of that is a technique issue, how much is a confidence issue, and how much might be something else entirely.
Thomas is under contract through the 2017 season, with cap hits that max out at $816,504. Furthermore, because he spent last season on the NFI list, he will be a restricted free agent at the end of his four-year contract, as opposed to an unrestricted free agent. On the one hand, he is a cheap option to develop. On the other hand, at some point you have to decide if he is in fact going to develop into a contributor, and not just take up a roster spot that can be used on an actual useful option.