The San Francisco 49ers signed offensive lineman Mike Person on Wednesday, bringing their roster to 89 of the maximum 90 allowable players. The move came a day after the deadline to impact the comp pick formula, so if Person signed for anything more than the league minimum, he would have no impact on the formula.
The 89th player added to the roster is often going to be just a camp body, but Person could offer a bit more than that. He brings significant interior line experience, playing center the past two seasons, and guard before that. If he earns a roster spot, his primary role would likely be center, but he would be expected to also backup the guard spots.
Last season for the Indianapolis Colts, Person played 317 snaps as a center, appearing in eight games and starting four of the, according to Pro Football Focus (via David Lombardi). He graded out above-average in pass blocking, allowing three QB hurries and no sacks, and graded out slightly below average in run-blocking, according to Lombardi.
In 2015, he struggled at center for the Atlanta Falcons, resulting in them adding Alex Mack the next season. Following word of the signing, I spoke with Jeanna Thomas, writer for The Falcoholic. She said he was pretty bad that year, but it was his first time playing center. He struggled in training camp learning a new offense and the learning curve that comes with such a position switch. Additionally, the Falcons had weaknesses at guard, which does not help a new center.
Weston Richburg is the team’s starting center, while some combination of Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett, and Jonathan Cooper seem to be the front-runners for the two starting guard positions. The decision to release Zane Beadles removes a significant reserve option. Following the Beadles release, Garry Gilliam and Erik Magnuson seemed to be the front-runners for the utility line positions, with Darrell Williams competing for an opportunity as well.
Along with Person, the 49ers worked out Oday Aboushi, Josh LeRibeus, and Brian Schwenke, per ESPN’s Field Yates. The team clearly wanted more depth to compete for a backup role, and this shakes up the competition to a certain degree. Person offers experience, both in general and with Kyle Shanahan specifically. Center Coleman Shelton was high on the team’s list of UDFA guaranteed money, but the practice squad could be his final destination.
For now, the reserve competition is a big one. The team just signed Gilliam to a two-year extension, and while extensions don’t guarantee anything (ask Daniel Kilgore and Jeremy Kerley), it would seem to bode well for the time being.
Given how big injuries can impact an offensive line, this will be a big one to watch come training camp.