Before the start of the NFL free agency period, we’re going to look at various positions on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster to determine a few things. The first is whether or not the position improved from 2016 to 2017. The second is to see if free agency is a viable option to improve the position — if it’s even needed.
Season in review
Here’s a look at the way the position changed from 2016 to 2017:
2016 Week 17: Zane Beadles, Alex Balducci, Daniel Kilgore (IR), Marcus Martin (IR)
2017 Week 1: Daniel Kilgore, Zane Beadles, Erik Magnuson
Current: Daniel Kilgore, Zane Beadles
Free agents: Tim Barnes
We are going through each position, and while the center position changed this week, it may not necessarily have changed that drastically. The team signed pending free agent Daniel Kilgore to a three-year contract worth as much as $12 million.
The contract likely locks him in as the team’s center this year, but until we know how the guaranteed money is split up, it likely does not guarantee anything beyond that with regard to the depth chart. Kilgore himself said he would not be surprised if the team went out and added some more competition at the position.
Kilgore’s season was a tale of two parts. For 11 weeks, he and the rest of the offensive interior struggled to find anything remotely resembling consistency. He had some bad penalties early in the season, and at times seemed to struggle with stronger defenders.
When Jimmy Garoppolo took over, things changed. The offensive line as a whole played better, and Kilgore emerged from his funk. Some of it had to do with getting more comfortable with the offense, but really it was about Jimmy Garoppolo. He helped raise up everyone around him, and Kilgore was a beneficiary.
Garoppolo was effusive in his praise for Kilgore at the end of the season, and it would seem Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch see him as a solid short-term measure. More than likely they add at least one center to the mix, but it could end up being someone who can play both guard and center. I could see another free agent addition, similar to what we saw with Tim Barnes, but an interior lineman in the middle of the 2018 NFL Draft would not surprise me in the least.
The market for centers
We’re going to take a deeper look at the various positions and free agents available in a separate series. For now, here’s a quick and dirty list of the top guards set to hit the open market.
Weston Richburg, New York Giants
Wesley Johnson, New York Jets
John Sullivan, Los Angeles Rams
Spencer Long, Washington
Senio Kelemete, New Orleans Saints
Ryan Jensen, Baltimore Ravens
Ben Garland, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Paradis, Denver Broncos (restricted free agent)