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ESPN offseason grades miss the point on Daniel Kilgore sign & trade

The 49ers offseason had some question marks, but I actually don’t see this move as one of them.

The San Francisco 49ers were reportedly set to sign J.J. Wilcox on Tuesday, but it fell through when he decided he wanted to sign with the New York Jets. The 49ers have an open roster spot following the release of Trovon Reed, so we can likely expect at least one more move before training camp.

That being said, the bulk of the team’s offseason transactions are pretty much complete. And so, ESPN’s Mike Sando is back once again with his annual “NFL executives grade every team’s offseason.

The highest grades were A- for the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. The 49ers were given a B-. The executives liked the team-friendly deal cornerback Richard Sherman signed, but questioned some of the other spending. They mentioned running back Jerick McKinnon, but then mentioned an issue with the decision to sign center Weston Richburg after first signing Daniel Kilgore signed a deal and was then traded.

“The one move that really bothered me was when they extended [Daniel] Kilgore, then went into free agency and decided they wanted Weston Richburg instead,” an exec said. “It’s not like they got Richburg for a great deal, so the question is, if Richburg was your guy to get, why did you even sign Kilgore? Why wouldn’t you just wait? It seemed very impetuous on both sides. It might be good outcome, but that is really bad process.”

I would argue this was actually a well thought out process by the 49ers. They signed Kilgore to a three-year contract, with the deal including $4,825,000 fully guaranteed at signing. If that had been primarily signing bonus money, then yes, that would have been an odd decision to turn around and trade him and roll up that kind of dead money. But that was not the case. The guaranteed money included his $2,525,000 base salary for 2018, and a $2.3 million roster bonus due March 16th.

The 49ers signed Weston Richburg on March 14th, and then traded Kilgore on March 15th. With the roster bonus timed the way it was, our own hindsight suggests the team knew they were interested in Richburg, but also knew that free agency is not a sure thing. They might not land Richburg, in which case, not re-signing Kilgore would leave them without a center. They gave themselves three days of wiggle room to get Richburg signed and then turn around and get Kilgore traded. The Kilgore trade involved them moving up four spots in the seventh round, which further suggests they were simply looking to unload him once they got Richburg signed.

We don’t know exactly what went on behind closed doors, but this all suggests the team had a process in mind. If they had been left with a bunch of dead money, sure I would understand the concern. But the process actually seems pretty sound to me based on the details I just mentioned.

What do you think? Are there aspects of the Kilgore/Richburg process that bug you?