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Brandon Thomas likely the favorite to replace Mike Iupati on 49ers offensive line

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San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke acknowledged that Brandon Thomas is likely a favorite to replace Mike Iupati on the offensive line. We break down what this means.

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The San Francisco 49ers saw left guard Mike Iupati depart the team via free agency this offseason, but they are hoping to have an internal replacement. During his media session last week, general manager Trent Baalke confirmed that Brandon Thomas was drafted with the potential departure of Iupati in mind. This is not a shocking revelation, but it's nice to get some confirmation on it.

I did not see this mentioned in Twitter, but according to Matt Maiocco, Baalke said the team had rated Thomas as a second round talent. Thomas tore his ACL during a pre-draft workout with the New Orleans Saints, and that cost him in the draft. There was a lot of speculation where Thomas might have been drafted, with some discussion of the second. We obviously take Trent Baalke comments with the proverbial grain of salt, but he potentially added some context as to Thomas's status prior to the knee injury.

The 49ers still have to consider Alex Boone's potential departure next year. Marcus Martin could be a long-term answer, but my guess is the team adds another offensive lineman this year. I don't see a first round pick as some have suggested, but I do think the team adds one no later than early in day three.

Maiocco also made a good point on Twitter about Thomas's contract status. He is signed for three more seasons, but because he spent his rookie year on the NFI list, he will be a restricted free agent after the 2017 season, and not an unrestricted free agent. A player needs four accrued seasons to be unrestricted, and season on the NFI list does not count toward that number. That means Keith Reaser will also be an RFA after 2017. Kenneth Acker on the other hand will be unrestricted because a season on injured reserve does count as an accrued season.