We’re going to look at each positions departures prior to Week 1 of the 2017 season and see how they fared after leaving the San Francisco 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we look at the offensive line.
The only thing that could be any worse than the wide receiver group we just talked about was the 49ers offensive line. Offering up near league-high numbers in pressures and sacks, you might not even believe the 49ers had an offensive line to begin with.
In 2018, it’s still a work in progress. While some of the dead weight has been cut by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, the numbers in 2017 prove that there is still much work left to be done to get this unit where it should be. Guard is one of the high picks needed in the draft, and the team will need to get Joe Staley’s exit strategy in place with a tackle. Was there anyone they let go who they should have held onto for those roles?
Here’s a somewhat full list of the 49ers offensive line departures in 2017. This list is in no way complete, but I bring it up because a majority of these players are either playing on practice squads or out of the league. Players who re-signed with the team during or at the end of the 2017 season are not listed.
Andrew Tiller (G)
Marcus Martin (C)
Alex Balducci (C)
Andrew Gardner (G)
Norman Price (OT)
When Marcus Martin was picked in the 2015 NFL draft, it was almost unanimously declared a steal of a pick. A center with a 2nd round grade (1st by some analysts), Martin was taken late into the 3rd round by the 49ers. He was the last person to leave the ‘green room’, the room where the top draft picks sit and wait to hear their names called before walking out on stage to the crowd.
It was quickly realized, there was a reason why 31 other teams let him drop.
In the 26 games Marcus Martin played in, he only had one game with a positive grade from Pro Football Focus. In 2015 he was ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus in run blocking and was near that rank in other categories.
Needless to say, Martin became a scapegoat for the 49ers issues at offensive line and the team at large. When John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan came on-board, Martin was one of the players in their massive clean sweep of the roster. He was waived by the team and later claimed by the Cleveland Browns. He never saw the field.
At one point, Andrew Tiller was an up and coming guard. This was when his competition for the starting spot was none other than Jordan Devey, someone who was an even larger disaster than Martin.
In 2015 Tiller was brought up to the main roster from the practice squad, but still couldn’t quite claim the starting role from Devey, though he had decent stats according to Pro Football Focus.
In 2016, Tiller was brought back again to the practice squad when Chip Kelly’s regime took over and in 2017 became a restrictive free agent, signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers did not match the offer, so the Chiefs got him for all of three months into the season before waving him in early September.
Tiller is back on the team that picked him in the draft, the New Orleans Saints, on a reserve/future contract. He didn’t play a snap in the 2017 regular season.
Balducci came to the 49ers as an undrafted free agent familiar with Chip Kelly as he played at Oregon during Kelly’s time as a coach. As a nose tackle, the 49ers planned to convert him to offensive lineman.
Balducci appeared in two games in 2016, coming in for an injured Daniel Kilgore. That’s the extent of his NFL experience as he was waived during the Lynch/Shanahan house cleaning of 2017. He went to the New York Jets briefly and is now currently working on the Washington practice squad.
Those are some of the bigger (well, the best we can do) names. Are there any linemen you wish the 49ers kept in 2017?