The San Francisco 49ers are all but guaranteed to have four of their five starting offensive linemen back in 2019, but right guard is a question mark. Mike Person started all 16 games and is a free agent. His backup, Joshua Garnett, has struggled to stay healthy, and is a big question mark as the 49ers are likely to decline his fifth year option later this spring.
On Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan offered some optimism for both players, but seems to have been relatively non-committal about their futures. He told 49ers media at the Combine that the team would love to have Person back, using “hopefully” to describe trying to get something done. That being said, if Person walks in free agency, hopes for more from Garnett while also understanding they’ll need to potentially check out the free agent market.
“I would love for Garnett to step it up,” Shanahan said at the NFL combine. “He showed us some good things this year, but he just has not been able to stay healthy long enough to become as a consistent of a player as his ability (suggests). That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Shanahan said if he can get in a full offseason workout program and a full training game, “he should have a good chance to help us.”
The 49ers signed Person to a one-year deal last spring, but early in training camp Garnett seemed like he might be able to claim the job. However, Garnett suffered a knee injury early in camp and he could never get back into the starting lineup. He took over for Person when the latter got hurt midway through the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, but Garnett in turn got hurt 14 snaps later. He got limited snaps in Weeks 8-10, and then replaced an injured Laken Tomlinson in the second quarter of the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams.
The 49ers technically have to decide if they want to pick up his fifth year option this spring. Given his inability to consistently get on the playing field, it seems entirely unlikely the 49ers pick up the option. They’ll see what he can do in competing for a roster spot this fall, and given that he’d only account for $1,241,693 in dead money if cut at the end of camp, he faces a tough competition to earn some kind of role.