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Panthers release Mike Tolbert, 49ers need a fullback

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The Falcons made valuable use of the fullback in 2016. The hiring of Kyle Shanahan could result in the same for the 49ers.

Fooch’s update: Or the 49ers could just try and sign Patrick DiMarco, who is a free agent. Missed that one.

The San Francisco 49ers made extensive use of the fullback throughout the four years of Jim Harbaugh and the first year of Jim Tomsula. However, Chip Kelly was not quite as big a fan of the position, and once the team released Bruce Miller, we really did not see much out of it. Could that change under Kyle Shanahan?

I bring this up because the Carolina Panthers have released veteran fullback Mike Tolbert. The 49ers do not have a fullback on their roster, and looking at Kyle Shanahan’s work in Atlanta, it is safe to say the team will look to add at least one option. Over his two seasons in Atlanta, Shanahan made extensive use of fullback Patrick DiMarco. In two seasons with Shanahan, DiMarco was heavily involved in the rushing and passing attack, and earned two alternate nods to the Pro Bowl. This past year, he played in 31 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

The 49ers are in a rebuilding process, so any players over 30 would seemingly be down the radar to some degree. However, I don’t think that precludes the addition of any older veteran. Someone like Tolbert could add some veteran leadership to a team that will be developing a young base in the coming seasons. And of all the units, the run game is one of the few that has a good base in place.

The offensive line and Carlos Hyde had plenty of time to work together last season, and there is something to build on. If the team decides to add a fullback, maybe Tolbert makes some sense as a relatively inexpensive short-term option. Shanahan has shown an ability to adapt his offense to the players he has, but now he has a chance to bring in the kinds of players he specifically wants. He will be actively involved in the proverbial grocery shopping, which will give us a better idea of what his ideal offense might look like.