49ers' play for O-line depth sign of weak draft class

49ers' play for O-line depth sign of weak draft class

Behind the 49ers' presumptive starting offensive tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown is John Theus, who played 88 snaps as a rookie last season.

The general belieft is this year’s draft does not hold a bounty of prospects along the offensive line. That would explain why the 49ers made a play Monday to increase depth at a position of need with the signing of restricted free agent Garry Gilliam to a one-year offer sheet.

The Seattle Seahawks have five days to match the reported one-year, $2.2 million contract that includes $1.4 million in guaranteed money.

Gilliam started 29 games the past two seasons at right tackle for the Seahawks. Trent Brown started 16 games at right tackle for the 49ers last season. He won the starting job to thwart Anthony Davis’ comeback attempt with a strong training camp.

But Brown’s play leveled off during the regular season, and with a change to Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system, there is no harm in creating competition for the starting job.

If nothing else, the pursuit of Gilliam could give the 49ers three offensive tackles with significant starting experience.

Gilliam’s time as a starter with the Seahawks appeared to be coming to an end, anyway. Seattle general manager John Schneider told Seattle-area reporters at the recent owners meetings that Germain Ifedi, the team’s first-round draft pick a year ago, would move from right guard to right tackle this season.

Last season, the 49ers’ backup swing tackle was guard Zane Beadles, who started 12 games at left guard, two games at left tackle and two games at center.

The 49ers set out this offseason to increase depth along the offensive line. The team acquired Jeremy Zuttah in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Zuttah was a Pro Bowl selection at center last year.

Zuttah can also play guard. The 49ers will have the flexibility to determine if the way to get the best five linemen on the field is to start Daniel Kilgore at center and have Zuttah compete at either guard spot against Beadles or Joshua Garnett.

Meanwhile, Gilliam’s possible addition – the Seahawks would not receive any compensation if they decide to let him walk – would provide the 49ers with insurance at the tackle position.

According to Pro Football Focus, Brown and Gilliam last season ranked near the bottom of the league among offensive tackles who played 60 percent or more of his team’s snaps.

Brown was 46th of 54, and PFF listed him as surrendering six sacks, two quarterback hits and 31 hurries. Gilliam was listed at No. 51 with two sacks allowed, six QB hits and 35 hurries. Gilliam’s run-blocking grade was slightly better than Brown’s, according to PFF’s grading system.

Lynch: TE McDonald to return to 49ers after being on trade block

Lynch: TE McDonald to return to 49ers after being on trade block

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers explored trade options for veteran tight end Vance McDonald during the three-day draft, but he is scheduled be back with the team when the club reports Monday for the fourth week of the offseason program.

“I think that’s the reality of new regimes coming, new schemes,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Saturday at the conclusion the seven-round draft. “That’s not to say that he can’t fit into our scheme. Frankly, we received some interest from some other people, then we did explore some options throughout the league with Vance. Nothing ended up happening, so Vance will come back and have an opportunity to compete.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he called McDonald on Friday night to keep him updated on the team’s though process in pursuing trade options. McDonald was at his brother’s wedding, Shanahan said, so he left him a long voice message. McDonald responded Saturday morning with a text. Shanahan said the two men will speak on Monday in Santa Clara.

“We did take over a 2-14 team,” Shanahan said. “We don’t feel all the answers are here right now. We have a lot of work to do. We need to improve in any way possible. And we’re going to do that. We’re going to do that from an organizational standpoint. How can we improve the building? How can we improve the coaching staff? How can we improve the personnel department? How can we improve the players?

“Just from Vance’s text back, I think people understand that. I think it does make sense. I don’t think that’s something personal.”

Former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke signed off on a five-year contract extension for McDonald in December that consisted of a $7 million signing bonus. McDonald appeared in 11 games last season, catching 24 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns. The 49ers acquired McDonald as a second-round draft pick 2013. In 48 career games, McDonald has 64 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns.

The 49ers signed veteran tight end Logan Paulsen in the offseason. On Saturday, the 49ers selected Iowa tight end George Kittle in the fifth round of the draft. Kittle joins fellow tight ends McDonald, Garrett Celek, Paulsen, Blake Bell and Je’Ron Hamm on the 49ers’ 90-man roster.



Lynch: 49ers expected to pick up Ward's fifth-year option

Lynch: 49ers expected to pick up Ward's fifth-year option

The 49ers plan to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive back Jimmie Ward for the 2018 season, general manager John Lynch said Saturday.

The league-wide deadline for picking up the option is Wednesday. After the 49ers did not draft a free safety within the first two days of the draft, it became apparent Ward fits into the team’s plan for at least the next two seasons. Coach Kyle Shanahan said he was excited after watching Ward during the team's minicamp this week.

The fifth-year option, a product of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, enables teams to control the rights of first-round draft picks for one season beyond the mandatory four-year contract. The salary for safeties drafted outside the top 10 is $5.957 million.

The salary is guaranteed for injury only. The team can void the deal until the first day of the 2018 league year.

Ward, whom the 49ers selected with the 30th overall pick of the 2014 draft, was the team’s top nickel back in his first two seasons, appearing in 24 games. Last year, Ward moved to cornerback, where he started 11 games before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

With the 49ers’ conversion to a defense based on the Seattle Seahawks’ scheme, Ward is being moved to free safety. He is expected to fill a role based on what Earl Thomas plays with the Seahawks.

Here are the 49ers’ decisions since the inception of the fifth-year option rule:

--The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith before restructuring the contract. The 49ers eventually released Smith before the start of his fifth season due to multiple off-field incidents.

--Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs before his second NFL season.

--The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on safety Eric Reid for this season. He is scheduled to earn $5.676 this season.