We’re going to look at departures from each position prior to Week 1 of the 2018 season and see how they fared after leaving the San Francisco 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we look at the tight ends.
How do we discuss this one? There isn’t much from the tight end position for us to really discuss. There was only one tight end from the 2017 53-man roster that spelled Garrett Celek and a rookie George Kittle, Logan Paulsen. Keep in mind, our list is in no way complete with all the transactions, so there are other tight ends, but the goal is to try and stick with who was there at the start of the season. That said, there’s also another tight end who departed late into 49ers’ 2017 training camp. Yes, he was a 2017 departure and not a 2018 one, but he had such a strong season we should bring him up today given the timing.
Yes, we’re cheating. But first...
Logan Paulsen was a decent tight end addition to the 49ers. He had experience in Kyle Shanahan’s system when the two were at Washington, so he was already valuable. Paulsen also was depended on during his early years at Washington, but his numbers fell off a cliff in 2014.
His time with the 49ers couldn’t get much worse. Paulsen became victim of roster musical chairs, getting released and signed through the season. He finished 2017 with a near-invisible stat sheet, having started one game, getting two targets, and nothing else..
Paulsen was signed to the Atlanta Falcons for 2018 and went on to start 10 games, notch a touchdown, and have a better season than the one in San Francisco. He still was a shadow of his former self in Washington and failed to meet the numbers he had in his one season with the Chicago Bears (which were not very great either).
Vance McDonald should be excluded from our list—he was traded during the 2017 training camps and this series focuses on players who departed after that year’s season, but before 2018 began. The thing is, McDonald was traded so late that he was put on the bench for most of that year while he learned the Steelers’ playbook. He showed up eventually with much potential to close 2017, but 2018 was where everything came together. Because of this, we’ll break the rules and talk about a 2017 departure.
So what was McDonald’s 2018 like? Oh, just this. McDonald’s numbers in 2018 improved in every category. He caught 50 passes on 72 targets for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Now that isn’t George Kittle, but that was pretty darn good for a person nicknamed “Old Stonehands” around these parts.
When Garrett Celek was going through his pains in 2018 and often ignored, it was a thought of maybe the 49ers traded the wrong guy. Kittle on one side and McDonald blocking on the other? Alas, a change of scenery may have just been what he needed. You still can’t look at that above video and say, “Dang it...”
Would you like to have any of these tight ends back on the team?