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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: Vance McDonald

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today we move on to tight end Vance McDonald.

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

When Fooch passed out the 90-on-90 assignments, I was sure I wouldn’t be doing one on Vance McDonald. By now I figured he’d be traded or released given the news we had on him.

He wasn’t. Therefore, I’m stuck doing a 90-on-90 with this guy.

But that pretty much sums up McDonald. He’s someone the 49ers are trying to get rid of, especially after he signed an extension under the guy who picked him, former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.

Yes, cue the “Thanks Baalke!” comments

Here’s the thing, I personally liked McDonald, at least until this year when I ran out of patience with him. Anyone who does this to Richard Sherman gets a bit of leeway in my book:

But that was in the NFC Championship game. Three coaches ago. McDonald has shown some great athleticism and blocking, but his pass catching abilities have still yet to develop upon anything besides mediocre. When he’s wide open in space is only when he can catch the ball safely. Sometimes.

As great as a blocker he is, it may be time to let Vance McDonald go. He may be a product of bad coaching, but even then, it’s hard to see him getting over the hump when he’s been in the league three years and only shown improvement in blocking, but nothing in his pass catching.

Basic Info

Age: 27
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Height: 6’4
Weight: 267 lbs

Cap Status

He has a $2,100,000 salary fully guaranteed for the 2017 season. He has a $750,000 workout bonus, a $150,000 workout bonus, and a prorated $1,400,000 bonus over the 2017 season. If cut, he carries $3,500,000 million in dead money, and clears $665,625 in cap space.

Why He Might Improve in 2017

Duh, see above. Vance McDonald has the name “Stone Hands” for a reason. He just can’t catch. When he’s open, wide open, he can usually get his hands on the ball. When called upon for a crucial grab or catch, he’s just proven unreliable in his last three seasons. It’s the one thing he’s needed to work on since his college days. Scouts have mentioned his pass catching abilities are suspect and there hasn’t been any sign of improvement. Just when he makes a catch to prove otherwise, there comes four others to prove the negatives.

Also, his ball security can make fans cringe. While fumbles have never been an “issue” for some reason, I’m always shivering when he takes a hit that he’ll cough it up.

His blocking is already great, and probably what’s kept him on the team all this time. When he has to block, it’s rare anyone gets through him. If only he could catch, he could be an absolute beast.

Why He Might Regress in 2017

His pass catching is already suspect, but if he stops getting those rare, wide open grabs that he’s managed three times every season, he’s going down. Plus if he has problems with this new offense by Kyle Shanahan in the blocking department, he’s on his way out. Especially when the 49ers went and grabbed a very nice tight end in the draft in George Kittle. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kittle yank the starting job midway through he season with what we’ve seen. If, and I mean IF McDonald can get his pass catching abilities together, he’s a great tight end, worth the money given to him in his extension. That’s a big if though.

Chances of making the roster

Given the dead money hits, he’s probably stuck on the 49ers roster for now, barring anything disastrous. The 49ers tried trading him this offseason to no success. His great blocking is worth enough to keep him around until they have better options available. Like stated above, if the coaching staff can get the catching issue figured out (my suggestion: use toilet paper rolls like in the film Little Giants!) McDonald could carve out a very nice role and the 49ers could have a deadly tight end duo in Kittle/McDonald.

But don’t hold your breath. Unless a good trading suitor arrives, this is McDonald’s last season.