The San Francisco 49ers are reportedly among the four "main teams" looking at free agent guard Evan Mathis, according to John Clayton. There have been no further reports, so it remains to be seen just how accurate that is. Nonetheless, it would not be entirely shocking to see the 49ers interested. The retirement of Anthony Davis has resulted in an extra open starting job following the departure of Mike Iupati in free agency.
I chatted briefly with our Philadelphia Eagles blogger, and he mentioned that the Eagles use a zone-blocking scheme under Chip Kelly. He said Evan Mathis brings an athleticism that is better suited to ZBS than power blocking. That is not to say Mathis can't play in a power scheme, but it would not be the ideal use of his talents.
There has been some talk about the 49ers blocking scheme, and whether they are making a switch from power to zone. I don't know if the team is making a complete switch, but it definitely seems to be in the picture. Grant Cohn spoke with QB coach Steve Logan about the offensive line.
Chris around the league is recognized as one of the best there is, and he's capable of blending those two styles, and that can be hard to do. But he has shown the ability to blend the gap schemes and the zone schemes ... The ability to blend those, that's where you're going to find out how good you are.
Head coach Jim Tomsula also spoke about gap and zone schemes last week during minicamp:
Is it more of an emphasis in this offense this year or do not want to talk about that?
"I don't believe we are talking about schematics. The bootleg is something that comes off if we're going to run a zone scheme. We're not solely a zone scheme, you all see that too. There's no secret to that. That is something we're working. And we can work it more. You work the gap scheme stuff with no shoulder pads on. Now you start getting piles, you start getting a bunch of clogged up stuff and a lot of bodies in it. You're running the power and you're running on the inside, the iso, those ones are predicated on getting movement. Without pads on, we're trying to do a little bit more."
The team has built itself around power over the last four years. It does not seem like the plan is to completely abandon it, but to try and mix and match what they can do. It increases the learning curve a bit, but could pay significant dividends, particularly with the switch from Frank Gore to Carlos Hyde.
It remains to be seen if the 49ers will end up signing Evan Mathis, or even if they are legitimately interested in him. However, it would seem like he would fit in as they transition their blocking scheme. He is a bit older, but he remains an incredibly talented guard. I would not want to see the 49ers give him a long-term deal, but a one- or two-year deal could work nicely.
Of course, this all depends on how the 49ers feel about their current group of offensive linemen. Brandon Thomas is trying to work his way into the starting lineup. Marcus Martin is handling center work, but his role depends in part on the health of Daniel Kilgore. And we don't know yet if the 49ers are going to move Alex Boone to right tackle, or if Erik Pears will handle that role.
Evan Mathis will likely take some time to figure out where he will suit up next. He will want to get a playbook in hand, but as we head into the long part of the summer, he's got some time to figure out his next step. That gives the 49ers some time to better evaluate where they think they are at along the offensive line.