The San Francisco 49ers are expected to ink free agent offensive lineman Weston Richburg to a five-year contract when free agency formally opens on Wednesday. We don’t know the dollars yet, but a five year contract is usually not going to come with low dollar figures. I doubt we see him get the reported Andrew Norwell money, but he’ll get a nice chunk of change.
The 49ers need help on the interior of their offensive line, but they’ve raised a question wtih the Richburg signing. He played guard his first year in the NFL, and then played center his next three. The 49ers recently extended center Daniel Kilgore, albeit on a three-year deal. Both men can play center and guard, and it was not too long ago that the general consensus was that Kilgore would be starting at center this season.
When Kilgore signed his extension, he acknowledged that he expected the team to bring in competition. Additionally, Kyle Shanahan said previously that Kilgore was their center. However, this kind of signing would seem to move beyond competition to “taking his job.” Richburg can play guard, and the 49ers have a need at guard, but folks connected to the New York Giants think there is no way Richburg is playing anywhere but center.
Former Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz chatted with Matt Barrows about Richburg. Schwartz played with him in New York, and also has worked out with him in the offseason at LeCharles Bentley’s program. Schwartz said that Richburg’s best position is very clearly center and he is in a perfect position to take over that role.
I also checked in with Ed Valentine from Big Blue View for his thoughts on Richburg. He also strongly believes Richburg is best suited at center.
Richburg is a really good player. It seems curious that offensive line-needy team like the Giants didn’t really try to keep him, but there is a reason. Center happened to be the one spot where the Giants had depth. Brett Jones, who they signed out of the CFL a few years back, proved to be a really good player while filling in for Richburg (IR/concussion) last season. He is an RFA and will come cheaper.
Richburg’s natural position is center, and he’s much better there than he is a guard. He played guard as a rookie and was out of place there in my opinion. He’s an excellent pass blocker and a very good leader and anchor as a center. He is a good run blocker, but slightly under-sized and can struggle with a powerful player on his nose. That lack of size is another reason I don’t like him at guard.
If the 49ers are planning to play him at center (I know they re-signed Daniel Kilgore) they will be very happy with him. If Richburg is the one they are moving to guard I’m honestly not sure how well that is going to work.
So what does all this mean for Daniel Kilgore? Is he going to compete for one of the guard roles, and if he loses out, does he become the utility interior lineman?
Kyle Shanahan said last week that Kilgore was his starting center. Of course, a year ago the team signed Jeremy Kerley to a three-year extension, only to cut him in training camp when Trent Taylor emerged as a better option. Shanahan and GM John Lynch have made it clear players are around until they find somebody better. Maybe that is the case with Weston Richburg and Daniel Kilgore?