The San Francisco 49ers could find themselves with an intriguing competition in 2018 for the swing tackle role. The team elected to re-sign Garry Gilliam, and he will compete with Darrell Williams and Erik Magnuson to be the first tackle off the bench.
Gilliam joined the 49ers a year ago as a restricted free agent. He had entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. UDFAs get three-year contracts, and since a player need four accrued seasons to be an unrestricted free agent, they become restricted free agents at the end of their rookie deals. At the time, the 49ers signed him to a one-year offer sheet that included a $1.4 million base salary ($750,000 fully guaranteed), a $500,000 signing bonus and $300,000 in roster bonus money paid out over the course of the season. The Seahawks chose to pass on matching, and Gilliam became a 49er.
Gilliam claimed the swing tackle job out of camp, with Joe Staley and Trent Brown serving as the starters. Gilliam was active but played limited snaps the first seven weeks of the season. Brown suffered a concussion in Week 7, and so Gilliam got the start at right tackle in Week 8. He played 15 snaps before suffering a knee injury. He was inactive in Week 9, and then went on injured reserve.
The 49ers re-signed Gilliam to a two-year extension this past February.
Age: 27 (turns 28 on November 26th)
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Weight: 305 lbs
On the first year of a two-year contract. He received a fully guaranteed $1,750,000 base salary and a $400,000 roster bonus. He will receive a $50,000 workout bonus, and can earn up to $500,000 in roster bonus money during the season. If the 49ers release him, they will clear $300,000 in cap space, and carry $2.2 million in dead money.
How he might improve in 2018
First off, staying healthy all season would be a step forward. Seahawks fans were fine with Gilliam leaving, which is saying something given how awful their offensive line has been. He was decent enough last season in his two extended appearances in Weeks 7 and 8, but it’s too small a sample size from which to really assess if he improved from his time in Seattle. He’s relatively young, so staying on the field would be a good first step.
How he might regress in 2018
Maybe we find out he really is more the guy who struggled in Seattle. That would not exactly be the most shocking revelation, but it’s also not the end of the world if Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey are able to stay healthy. Worst case for Gilliam is he struggles and ends up released, with Darrell Williams or Erik Magnuson claiming the swing tackle role.
Odds of making the roster
The $2.15 million guarantee is not cap-crushing if the 49ers choose to go in another direction by the end of training camp. The team decided not to add any significant competition for the swing tackle role, which, coupled with the sizable guaranteed money suggests the team thinks he can win the job. I listed him as strong bubble following the draft, and nothing has really changed for me. Williams in particular is worth keeping an eye on, but for now, Gilliam would seem to have the edge.