The hours following the close of the annual NFL draft are a crazy period as teams are hustling to get priority undrafted free agents signed, and rookies are hustling to find an opportunity.
The San Francisco 49ers were plenty active, but as happens almost every year, at least one signing was not meant to be. Shortly after the draft, there were reports the team had agreed to a contract with Kentucky center Jon Toth. He was viewed as a priority option for teams, bringing strong power to the position (NFL.com, PFF).
However, a day later, ESPN’s Field Yates squashed that, saying a deal had not been done. He mentioned that Toth was still recovering from an injury, and would find a team not too long after that.
We’ve got an update as the 49ers work their way through OTAs. Toth’s agent reported that the center had successful surgery on a herniated disc on Tuesday.
Jon Toth had successful surgery on a disc herniation yesterday. Will have multiple teams interested in signing him as his rehab progresses.— Brian McLaughlin (@bd_mclaughlin) May 24, 2017
It’s not surprising Toth’s agent mentioned multiple teams will be interesting in signing Toth. However, there will be work to do in his recovery. We don’t know the exact details, so figuring out a timeline is not a simple task.
For comparison however, we can at least look at J.J. Watt’s herniated disc injury last year. No two injuries are exactly the same, but it provides at least some detail. Watt underwent surgery on July 21. The first report suggested 6-8 weeks recovery time, while a later report said 10 weeks. Watt returned to practice on September 5, which was a shade under seven full weeks removed from the surgery. He played the first three games of the regular season, but re-aggravated the injury in Week 3 and went on injured reserve.
All of this is to say, Toth has some time to work his way back. Training camp starts in just over nine weeks. We don’t know exactly what Toth’s recovery will look like, but odds are decent he would open a camp on the NFI list while the team makes sure his back is 100 percent.
The 49ers acquired Jeremy Zuttah in a trade and Tim Barnes via free agency. Daniel Kilgore remains on the roster as well. Zuttah was taking first team center snaps on Tuesday, but aggravated a leg injury. Reports suggested it is not serious, but in the meantime, Kilgore handled first team snaps, and Barnes handled second-team snaps.
Zane Beadles can also do some center work in a pinch, and I imagine they’ll try and find somebody else to help within their current crop of UDFAs. But Toth is an intriguing prospect to try and develop. He’s gotten some positive buzz, so it will take a bit of a sell job, but the 49ers do have the benefit of a roster open to change. A UDFA is not looking for the best team, but rather the best situation to earn a roster spot. The 49ers offensive line has enough questions that it could be an easy job convincing him.