Fooch’s update: John Lynch appeared on 95.7 The Game Tuesday morning and said that while Garnett did have surgery last week, he should be good to go this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with some extra padding on the hand.
The fact that the San Francisco 49ers will not make the playoffs this season opens the door for focusing on evaluation for the 2019 offseason and beyond. The 49ers have a host of decisions to make, both internally and externally, and the final six weeks will offer a chance to evaluate their roster.
One player that might be moving further to the outs is guard Joshua Garnett. The 2016 first round pick broke his thumb in practice prior to the Week 10 matchup with the New York Giants, per Cam Inman. He wore a cast and was active for five special teams snaps, but then had surgery on the thumb during the bye week.
His status the rest of the season is a question mark, with Inman pointing out that Washington left tackle Trent Williams has missed three games after having thumb surgery. Washington has a quick turnaround from Week 11, playing on Thanksgiving, which could mean a fourth week missed for Williams.
Even if Garnett returns fairly quickly, he is unlikely to see any playing time outside of special teams the rest of the season. Mike Person has held down the right guard position all season, and barring an injury, he is unlikely to lose the job. Erik Magnuson is serving as the backup guard in the meantime.
This coming offseason, the 49ers have a decision to make about Garnett. The team has until early May to decide whether or not to exercise Garnett’s fifth year option for 2020. The 49ers spent first round picks on Garnett and DeForest Buckner in 2016, and have them under contract through 2019 with the 2020 fifth year option.
The only reason the 49ers would not exercise Buckner’s option is if they got a long term contract extension done. On the other hand, I see little to no chance they exercise Garnett’s option. It is only guaranteed for injury, becoming fully guaranteed on the first day of the new league year in 2020. They could very well simply decide to release him if they can’t find a trade partner. His 2019 salary ($968,769) is not guaranteed, and so they would carry $1,241,693 in dead money if they release him. They might think he can turn into something with a fully healthy offseason, but even if they don’t release him, I don’t see them exercising his option.