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49ers OL competition could come down to 3 or 4 roster spots

The San Francisco 49ers know four of their five starting offensive linemen. The last starter and the reserves leave plenty of room for debate.

The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up minicamp and are now a month away from the start of training camp. The 90-man roster is just about set, although a transaction here or there would not be entirely shocking. Shortly after the draft we put together a complete roster bubble watch, and now it’s time to re-visit it. The offseason workout program did not lock in most roster spots, but it might give us some hints here and there.

Over the next two weeks, we’re going to take a look at each position, and what the bubble watch looks like. As we’ve done for a while now, the bubble watch breaks down to lock, strong bubble, weak bubble, and longshot. For some positions, we’ll have multiple players listed at strong bubble, even though not all are likely to make the roster. But the idea is that they both stand a good shot, even if it is just one of them. Additionally, this does not reflect whether or not a player will be traded. Trades can and probably will happen during training camp, but the positioning on this focuses on whether or not they’d be cut.

Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Today, rather than just focus on center to wrap up the offensive line, I thought we’d look at the unit as a whole.

Lock: OT Joe Staley, OT Mike McGlinchey, OG Laken Tomlinson, C Weston Richburg
Strong Bubble: OT Garry Gilliam, OT Darrell Williams, OG Joshua Garnett, OG Jonathan Cooper, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Mike Person
Weak Bubble: None
Longshot: OT Andrew Lauderdale, OT Jamar McGloster, OG Najee Toran, C Alan Knott, C Coleman Shelton, OL Pace Murphy

As you’ll notice, there are no weak bubble players listed. One of the longshots could surprise us, but it seems pretty likely that they are competing for one or two practice squad spots. Instead, that strong bubble is where it gets interesting across the offensive line.

Weston Richburg is going to be the team’s starting center. The two primary contenders for the reserve center role are Erik Magnuson and Mike Person. Magnuson is also competing at tackle, and has experience at guard, while Person is likely to get opportunities between guard and center. Person is the veteran, while Magnuson is the second-year player who was effectively thrown into the deep end as a rookie.

Laken Tomlinson is locked in as one of the two starting guards, leaving Jonathan Cooper and Joshua Garnett competing for the second starting spot. Person split first team snaps with Garnett while Cooper was sidelined during OTAs and minicamp, but it seems a safe bet Person will be competing for a utility role. The loser of the Garnett-Cooper competition could very realistically find themselves cut or traded.

And then there is the tackle spot. Garry Gilliam likely has the edge, but Magnuson and Darrell Williams could push him. The 49ers went into Week 1 last season with nine offensive lineman. They dropped to eight as the season wore on, but never below that. If that’s the case, here is what an eight-person depth chart could look like:

OT: Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey, Garry Gilliam, Erik Magnuson
OG: Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett
C: Weston Richburg, Mike Person

You can swap in Cooper for Garnett if you choose, but I think the loser of that competition will not be on the roster when Week 1 arrives. That being said, if the team decides nine offensive linemen is the way to go, there is room there for whomever does not claim the right guard job. It’s an interesting competition to say the least at this point.