The 49ers’ offensive line has seen a lot of turnover over the last five years, with right tackle being the lone constant. Mike McGlinchey’s pending free agency next month could change that.
Since the 49ers took McGlinchey with the ninth pick in the 2018 draft, the tackle has started in 69 of a possible 81 regular season games, making him the most-tenured member of the offensive line. While his pass protection has room for improvement, McGlinchey has developed into an above-average to high-quality run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading key.
While it feels like his play hasn’t quite matched the top-ten pick quality the 49ers made him, McGlinchey has developed into an above-average to good starting right tackle, something that should not be taken for granted. His market will prove that if he does hit free agency, with Spotrac projecting McGlinchey’s market value at a four-year deal worth just south of $15 million annually.
The 49ers currently can’t afford that, sitting at around $8 million in cap space as of this writing, although that’s likely to change before the new league year begins. So, how will the 49ers address the opening?
The best option would be to create the room and retain McGlinchey. While he does have his faults, he would be tough to replace. McGlinchey will likely be the most sought-after right tackle this year with teams like the Packers, Dolphins, and Jets – not coincidentally teams that run the same style of offense as the 49ers – with a need at the position.
His run-blocking ability is sought after and with how important a good run game is to Kyle Shanahan, retaining McGlinchey should be the top priority for the 49ers.
Then, what would be next if/when McGlinchey hits the open market and signs with a new team? History would suggest the next man up would be Colton McKivitz. The 49ers used the 153rd pick in the 2020 draft on McKivitz, who played 301 snaps in his rookie season but has played 145 snaps combined in the last two years.
After playing mostly at guard in 2020, he’s only played at tackle the last two years, replacing an injured Trent Williams for the final game of the 2021 season on the left side and 26 snaps over four games on the right side in 2022.
The 49ers have shown they’re comfortable filling in spots on their line with draft picks. The 49ers selected Aaron Banks in the 2021 draft and had him sit behind Laken Tomlinson before he left for the Jets last offseason.
They followed up by drafting Spencer Burford last season to replace Daniel Bruskill, who filled in at right guard after Michael Person retired. With Jake Brendel possibly leaving in free agency, the 49ers could even do the same at center, using either Nick Zakelj or Jason Poe as the 2023 replacement.