The San Francisco 49ers signed offensive lineman Erik Pears recently, inking the former Buffalo Bills guard and tackle to a 2-year deal. Pears spent last season at guard, but previously had spent most of his time as a tackle. He got the guard work in part because injuries created some shuffling.
In light of Jonathan Martin's departure from the 49ers, I wanted to try and figure out a couple things. The first is who will be the new swing tackle, and the second is who will be starting at guard opposite Alex Boone. The addition of Pears combined with the departure of Martin might provide a little more clarity on the situation.
At this point, my guess is Pears was brought in to be the team's swing tackle. The team has some young guys who will get some tackle time in the preseason. And I imagine they add at least one or two more tackles. However, while Pears struggled starting last year, having him as a veteran reserve makes some bit of sense. The team could still invest a draft pick in a potential swing tackle, but I would be surprised if anybody but Pears was handling that work come Week 1.
The question then is who moves in at left guard. Brandon Thomas would seem to be the favorite, but Joe Looney will get a chance to push him for the job. The loser of the competition between Marcus Martin and Daniel Kilgore could also compete for the work, although I see that person ending up as a swing interior guy.
Pears is certainly a possibility for the job, as is a draft pick, but neither seems like a strong likelihood if Thomas is healthy. That of course is the $1 million question. We don't know the status of Thomas's knee, so we'll have to keep an eye on that. But if his recovery is on track, a very reasonable best case sees him starting Week 1.