The San Francisco 49ers will likely spend the rest of the season without left guard Alex Boone, who suffered what is being reported as a slight MCL tear in Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns. The injury has been described as not particularly serious in the bigger picture, but because there are only three weeks left, he is unlikely to play again this season.
His absence will result in a shake-up on the offensive line. Daniel Kilgore returned to the active roster two weeks ago, and was back in action at center this past weekend. He initially was splitting time at center with Marcus Martin, but when Boone got hurt, Martin moved to left guard and Kilgore handled center the remainder of the game.
The 49ers welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to town, and Boone's injury could mean one of the two inactive offensive linemen will be active. Brandon Thomas and Ian Silberman have spent most of the season inactive, but the team will be a man short. Jordan Devey has been demoted exclusively to special teams, while Trenton Brown has not gotten many snaps in spite of being active.
If the 49ers do not activate Thomas this weekend, that will tell us quite a bit about his status in the eyes of the coaches. I suspect he will be active, but even if he is, my guess is either Martin or Devey gets the start at left guard.
The bigger question is what will happen in the offseason. Alex Boone is a free agent after this season, and Trent Baalke has not been one to give big money to veteran interior linemen. He will sign them, but not expensive ones. And Boone is going to cost quite a bit. The 49ers do have a lot of cap space to work with, so I suppose there is a small chance the team spends it bringing back Boone.
If Boone departs however, the 49ers offensive line will have a significant shake-up for the second straight year. Anthony Davis is expected to return to the team this coming offseason, but it is hard to tell how exactly he will be accepted upon his return. The 49ers will have a high draft pick, so it is entirely possible they draft a tackle, and maybe consider Davis as a guard. There is nothing specific set in stone, but moving Davis inside would not be the most surprising development of the 2016 offseason.
Whether Davis moves in or not, the 49ers will still be doing some shuffling on the line. Barring any unexpected trades, it seems likely that Daniel Kilgore is the center, Joe Staley is the left tackle, and Andrew Tiller is one of the two guards. How will the remaining two positions shake out?