The San Francisco 49ers have done a pretty significant overhaul of the team since the new regime took over. One of the weak points still remains the interior of the offensive line. Joshua Garnett will be available once OTAs start but the opposite guard spot, as well as center, are as of now, not locked up. Daniel Kilgore is a free agent and there are a few reasons why the 49ers should seriously consider re-signing him.
Most importantly there aren’t a lot of options out there. There is a serious lack of supply of offensive linemen available, and those that are good, are even more scarce. 2017 saw a very high price tag on any OL player of value and the same situation will likely happen in 2018. A few centers that are graded higher than Kilgore by ProFootballFocus are Evan Smith (Buccaneers), Ryan Jensen (Ravens), Weston Richburg (Giants), and John Sullivan (Rams).
While the 49ers have a lot of money to spend, they will have to decide if it will really be worth a healthy sum going to a free agent center. Kilgore has already said that it isn’t about money for him, so that’s an element in his favor:
“It would be huge. To spend eight years or more plus with one organization would be huge for me. I’m not the type of guy that’s going to be ... there’s not a money value to me. It’s about this team and the brotherhood, and what the future holds for this team. That’s what I’m really impressed with.”
The 49ers should not ignore the OL need in the draft and bring someone in to grow and compete with Kilgore. Historically speaking, it usually takes lineman time to adjust and succeed in the NFL. We all know how the Marcus Martin Project went and were glad that Kilgore was still on the roster. Kilgore did not start off the 2017 season well but did improve and played much better down the stretch.
Joe Staley described Kilgore’s improvement down the home stretch in the beginning of his post season recap interview and said it would be “key” to get him back in 2018. He explained that Kilgore knows the system and is a huge part of what they do as a group. Staley describes him as the captain of the O-line in the run game and setting protections. Kilgore is a guy that everyone trusts and is never second guessed. Also while Staley prides himself on his work ethic, he added “That guy outworks me.”
Jimmy Garoppolo also had some complimentary things to say about Kilgore:
“I thinks that’s a special relationship between a center and quarterback, you spend so much time together. Me and him, we got on the same page almost instantly when I first got here. He made my job a lot easier helping me with the run game and all that stuff. I think we compliment each other very well. Hopefully we’ll work something out.”
Kilgore is also very well respected in the OL room, enough so that he won the Bobb McKittrick award at the end of the season. The award is given to the offensive lineman who best represents courage, intensity and sacrifice and it was voted on by his fellow linemen.
It’s likely, with what Kilgore has said, that he would be willing to sign a team friendly, short term deal, which really is a no lose situation for the 49ers. Unlike a rookie, they know what they have in him and will at least have time to develop a center of the future.