The San Francisco 49ers traded Daniel Kilgore to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, clarifying exactly what Weston Richburg will be doing in Santa Clara. The move was not surprising given the Richburg addition, but it was still a quick decision.
There was a notable reason for making the decision when they did. The 49ers signed Kilgore to a contract extension in February that included $4,825,000 million fully guaranteed at signing. This included his $2,525,000 base salary for 2018, and a $2.3 million roster bonus. The roster bonus was guaranteed, but it was not due until Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. PT., per ESPN’s Field Yates.
Given that Kilgore’s salary is not paid until the season starts, this means the 49ers walk away from this without any dead money. The team swapped seventh round picks to make this happen, and effectively this was a chance to give Kilgore a chance to start at center for another team.
There is one report that Kilgore specifically asked for a trade, but whether he did or not, the move makes sense. On Thursday, Shanahan talked about why they made the decision.
“Just mainly because we see Dan as a center. I think he does also. I don’t think that’d be fair to put him at guard. This situation with Dan was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through as a coach. I’ve got the utmost respect for Dan. I think he is a good player and he’s even a better person. That’s why this was so tough, but when we had the opportunity to add a center of Weston’s caliber and improve our interior like that, when we go into free agency and we watch all the O-Linemen and how can we improve this the most? I think we all personally felt that it was the top O-Lineman that we saw out of all the inside guys. Didn’t know if we could add him or not and when he expressed that he wanted to be here and it worked out, that’s an obligation that we kind of have to this organization. When it comes to age and things like that and what you’re getting, that’s a tough decision we had to make. By no means was it easy to let go of Dan or to give him another opportunity somewhere. I wish we could sit him here and hold him and use him if we needed to, but our team has gotten a lot better today. We wanted to do very right for Dan and his wife and Miami is something that they were interested in too and something we were communicating with him and his agents on. I think it was a tough situation, but I think we all respect each other a lot and I think we all feel the same about each other. And, even though it was a tough few days, I think he’s in a very good situation for himself where he’s going in and he’s very needed and I know he’s going to a team, just talking to [Miami Dolphins head coach] Adam [Gase] earlier today, that wants him badly. I think it ended up right for both sides in the long run.”
This is very much like what we saw a year ago with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. The 49ers signed him to a three-year contract with plans on him handling slot receiver duties. They then drafted Trent Taylor, and when he showed he could handle the role, they released Kerley. They actually carried dead money that time, and because it was a post-June 1 release, they are carrying $1,133,334 in dead money for Kerley this year.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have made it very clear from day one. Players are going to be a part of this team until the organization finds somebody better. It is cold-hearted, but a fact of the business. The 49ers landed a center they valued more, even at a significantly higher price, and so it was time to move on from Daniel Kilgore.