Spencer Burford

Latest On San Francisco’s OL Plans

There weren’t many doubts heading into 2023, but 49ers offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster has provided some clarity about some roles on the team’s offensive line for the year. While the left side of the line from center over was solid last year, with left tackle Trent Williams grading out as the league’s top tackle, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the right side of the line was viewed as a bit more up in the air.

The biggest question facing the offensive line was who would replace departing starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who signed with the Broncos in free agency back in March. Foerster confirmed that the team intends to utilize fourth-year tackle Colton McKivitz in the starting lineup to begin the season, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN. The former fifth-round pick out of West Virginia has been asked to step up a few times, starting five games over his young career. It’s been a long road to become a starter as McKivitz spent the majority of his sophomore season on the practice squad and dealt with a high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve for four games last year.

San Francisco doesn’t have a ton of options behind McKivitz. Jaylon Moore has competed with McKivitz in the last few years for a backup role, starting five games over the last two seasons, and the team brought in Matt Pryor for depth in free agency. Pryor was also considered a possible replacement for McGlinchey as he has the most starting experience of the three, but he will instead be providing some experienced depth off the bench with starts under his belt at both tackle and guard.

Another question lingered on the right side after Spencer Burford showed room for improvement as a rookie starter last year. The 49ers asked a lot of their fourth-round selection, cementing him in that starting role fairly early into his tenure with the team. Of 77 guards graded last year by PFF, Burford’s rookie season ranked him 67th in the group. Despite the team bringing in some possible competition, Foerster confirmed that Burford should be returning to his starting role from last year.

The options behind Burford are much better than behind McKivitz. As mentioned above, Pryor comes in with starting experience at guard as well as tackle. The team added another veteran with diverse experience in Jon Feliciano. Feliciano started games at both guard spots over his time with the Raiders and Bills before spending last season as the Giants’ starting center. He provides San Francisco with a strong option as a backup center, but a recent report claimed that the team intends to use Feliciano back in his natural guard role. It appears he may be the 49ers’ top backup option for any of the interior roles.

San Francisco also has second-year guard Nick Zakelj, but Foerster wants Zakelj to give Feliciano a run for the No.2 center job behind starter Jake Brendel, according to Wagoner. Foerster says that they’d like Zakelj, who appeared in five games as a rookie last year in minimal work, to be able to provide depth at all three interior positions.

Hence, Foerster has provided us a strong portrait of the depth chart for San Francisco’s offensive line. A starting lineup that includes (from left to right) Williams, Aaron Banks, Brendel, Burford, and McKivitz will have strong competition and replacement options in Pryor, Feliciano, and Zakelj. With some of the best players in the country at running back, wide receiver, and tight end, and several strong options at quarterback, Foerster is doing his best to make sure the offensive line is not a weak spot on the 49ers offense.

49ers Planning To Use Jon Feliciano At G

The 49ers fielded an inexperienced interior offensive line group last season, but the group stayed healthy and helped on another journey to the NFC championship game. As of now, that Aaron BanksJake BrendelSpencer Burford trio is on track to reprise their roles.

But the 49ers also carried Daniel Brunskill as an insurance policy last year. The former starter mixed in frequently at guard. Brunskill signed a two-year, $5.5MM deal with the Titans in March; he has a clearer path toward a starting job in Nashville, where ex-49ers exec Ran Carthon now runs the show. The 49ers replaced Brunskill with Jon Feliciano, the Giants’ starting center throughout last season.

[RELATED: Colton McKivitz Favored To Become 49ers’ RT Starter]

During an offseason in which a few starting centers re-signed with their respective teams, San Francisco retained Brendel on a four-year, $16.5MM contract. Feliciano joined the team on a one-year, $2.25MM pact. That does not point to starter money, but the Giants used Feliciano as a first-stringer for $3.25MM last year. And the 49ers are not viewing the veteran as a depth-only cog. Feliciano will compete with Burford for the team’s starting right guard gig, David Lombardi of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

The 49ers listed Brunskill as a backup but used their former right guard starter on 519 offensive plays; he primarily platooned with Burford. The 2022 fourth-round pick played 745 snaps. Brunskill’s exit opens the door for Feliciano, a former Raiders backup who became a starter upon joining the Bills in 2019. Feliciano started 16 games at guard for the Bills that year, and while injuries hounded him in 2020 and ’21, ex-Bills staffers Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll made a successful bet on him. Feliciano started 15 games for the Giants last season.

Pro Football Focus graded Feliciano 31st overall among centers in 2022, and the Giants are handing the reins to second-round pick John Michael Schmitz. But the 31-year-old blocker appears a key part of the 49ers’ plans up front.

Jon is a guy who has started a lot of games here in the last few years,” GM John Lynch said. “I think he gives us tremendous versatility at guard and center. Around the league, it’s kind of known he’s one of those glue guys, one of those guys you want in your room. He became a priority for us in free agency. I felt very fortunate that we were able to come out of free agency with Jon a part of our team, especially once we lost Danny.”

Banks, Brendel and Burford combined to miss just two games last season. Odds are against that collective health repeating. Should Feliciano (54 career starts) lose the RG job to Burford, he will be positioned as an experienced interior swingman. For the other swing spot, Lombardi adds UFA addition Matt Pryor — the Colts’ Week 1 left tackle starter last season — will vie for the OT3 role with third-year blocker Jaylon Moore. Moore started two games last season. Although the Colts demoted Pryor during a disastrous year for their O-line, he has 24 career starts — at both tackle and guard — on his resume.

49ers Looking Into O-Line Trades

After their offensive line included Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack last season, the 49ers lost each in the offseason. Their right tackle situation also presents questions, with Mike McGlinchey presently shut down after experiencing an issue in his return from surgery.

This has left San Francisco with an inexperienced front alongside Trent Williams. As a result, the team has made trade inquiries, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. No deal appears imminent, and the 49ers will obviously monitor the waiver wire closely at this position after teams cut their rosters down to 53 Tuesday.

The team has another experienced piece up front, in two-year right guard starter Daniel Brunskill, but as of now, he is not a projected starter. San Francisco’s interior line is expected to consist of 2021 second-round pick Aaron Banks, veteran UDFA Jake Brendel and fourth-round rookie Spencer Burford, per Branch. Even Banks’ spot may be in question. The 49ers have been rotating Jason Poe, a rookie UDFA out of Division I-FCS Mercer, in place of Banks at points during this week’s practices, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes.

Kyle Shanahan did caution, with more than two weeks remaining until the 49ers’ opener, this group is not yet set. Colton McKivitz, a 2020 fifth-rounder who spent most of last season on the 49ers’ practice squad, is positioned as the team’s backup right tackle.

With Banks having played five offensive snaps as a rookie, Brendel having made three starts in six seasons and Burford a quick study from Conference USA, this represents a staggering shift for a team that advanced to the NFC championship game. Brendel has only logged 250 career offensive snaps.

Brunskill is also battling a hamstring injury. While a swing job may well await Brunskill, the team may need his experience soon. McGlinchey, who joins Brunskill in being on an expiring deal, appears to be week-to-week due to a knee issue. The fifth-year right tackle played eight snaps in the 49ers’ preseason opener, but he has not returned since. McGlinchey received a platelet-rich plasma treatment last week. The player who subbed for McGlinchey after his quadriceps tear last season, Tom Compton, signed with the Broncos in March.

The line Jimmy Garoppolo played behind appeared far more equipped than the one Trey Lance will have come Week 1. The 49ers will not be the only team looking to add O-linemen in the coming days, and their NFC title game cameo will make doing so more difficult. They sit 29th for waiver priority.

NFC West Notes: Rams, Cards, 49ers, Hawks

Van Jefferson‘s second 2022 surgery will shut him down for weeks. In their No. 3 wide receiver’s stead, the Rams are using the likes of second-round pick Tutu Atwell, veteran backup Ben Skowronek, converted tight end Jacob Harris and fifth-year return specialist Brandon Powell, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Of course, the Rams have also been linked — mostly by their own words — to a second Odell Beckham Jr. contract.

We’ll look at those guys and then we’ll continue to see if we can figure out when Odell will come back at some point as well,” Sean McVay said.

Jefferson’s surgery went well, Rodrigue tweets, adding a Week 1 return should be realistic. Although the Rams signed Beckham when Robert Woods was still healthy, Jefferson’s role was not threatened after the latter’s injury. He finished his sophomore NFL slate with 50 receptions, 802 yards (nearly quadrupling rookie-year total) and six touchdowns. Although Beckham coming back and joining Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson would threaten Jefferson’s playing time, the third-year receiver should have a firm grip on the WR3 job for a bit.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Activated off the non-football injury list Tuesday, Marquise Brown found himself in off-field trouble several hours later. The recently acquired Cardinals wide receiver was arrested on a criminal speeding charge and booked in the Maricopa County Jail. The arrest occurred at 7:05am Wednesday in north Phoenix, according to Jose Romero of the Arizona Republic. Brown was traveling from his home to the Cards’ facility, per Kliff Kingsbury. Brown, acquired in a draft-weekend deal that saw the Cardinals’ first-round pick change hands, faces a potential suspension under the personal conduct policy purview.
  • D.J. HumphriesCardinals extension is for three years and $51.8MM, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger tweets. This deal comes with a $17MM signing bonus, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). Humphries’ 2022 cap number will also drop from $19.9MM to $12.6MM, creating some additional space for the Cards. Humphries’ extension is worth a bit more than his previous contract (three years, $44.3MM), but it comes in eighth among left tackles for AAV.
  • The 49ers may go with two unseasoned guards this year. They have been using fourth-round rookie Spencer Burford exclusively as their first-string right guard, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. If the Texas-San Antonio product can stick at this position, it could relocate two-year San Francisco right guard starter Daniel Brunskill to center, where he is battling veteran backup Jake Brendel to take over for Alex Mack. Buford is vying to join Aaron Banks as a guard starter. The 2021 second-round pick logged five offensive snaps as a rookie but looks to have a firm grip on the 49ers’ left guard gig in camp.
  • The SeahawksReuben Foster workout does not look to signal an immediate signing, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. This appears to be a case of the Seahawks kicking the tires on the former first-round pick. Foster has not played in a game since the 2018 season. Although Washington claimed the once-high-profile linebacker during the 2018 season, he never played a down for the team. An ACL tear during Washington’s 2019 offseason program led the Alabama product out of the league. However, the Seahawks are the fifth team to work out Foster since his Washington contract expired following the 2020 season. The Jets, Jaguars, Browns and Dolphins have also brought him in.
  • Former Jets quarterback James Morgan also worked out for the Seahawks, auditioning Thursday. The team, which is holding a long-scrutinized Geno SmithDrew Lock competition, is not planning an immediate Morgan signing, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. A Green Bay native, Morgan, 25, also worked out for the Packers recently.

49ers Sign Entire 9-Man Draft Class

In the middle of their second week of OTAs, the 49ers managed to sign all their draft picks in a day. Each of San Francisco’s nine draftees agreed to terms on their four-year rookie contracts Thursday.

Because no first-rounders were part of this class, because of the 49ers’ Trey Lance trade-up, none of this group has a fifth-year option in his contract. While second- and third-rounders’ deals occasionally cause issues, this year being a moderately interesting one for Round 2 choices due to guaranteed years, each of the three 49ers Day 2 choices is locked in.

The 49ers began their draft by taking USC edge rusher Drake Jackson at No. 61 overall. Jackson, who recorded 12.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss in three Trojans seasons, will be expected to play at least a rotational role for the 49ers this year. Jackson received $3.14MM of his $5.8MM slot deal guaranteed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

San Francisco’s Dee Ford bet largely did not pay off. Ford is expected to be released soon. The team brought back Kerry Hyder, after his one-and-done Seattle tenure, and signed ex-Colts second-rounder Kemoko Turay. Ex-Ram Samson Ebukam also remains on the 49ers’ roster, after signing last year. But Jackson will certainly be expected to be part of the 49ers’ Nick Bosa-fronted edge mix as a rookie.

San Francisco added third-round skill-position players Tyrion Davis-Price (No. 93) and Danny Gray (No. 105) as well. Davis-Price, a 211-pound LSU-produced running back, joins 2021 third-rounder Trey Sermon, starter Elijah Mitchell and veteran Jeff Wilson in San Francisco’s crowded-looking backfield. Davis-Price left LSU after his junior season — a 1,003-yard slate. A 5-foot-11 wideout, Gray played a prominent role in SMU’s pass-happy offense. A former Texas 3A 100-meter champion while in high school, Gray caught 49 passes for 803 yards and nine touchdowns as an SMU senior.

Here are the draft picks the 49ers are set to take into minicamp and training camp:

Round 2: No. 61 Drake Jackson, DE (USC) (signed)
Round 3: No. 93 Tyrion Davis-Price, RB (LSU) (signed)
Round 3: No. 105 Danny Gray, WR (SMU) (signed)
Round 4: No. 134 Spencer Burford, OL (Texas-San Antonio) (signed)
Round 5: No. 172 Samuel Womack, CB (Toledo) (signed)
Round 6: No. 187 (from Broncos) Nick Zakelj, OT (Fordham) (signed)
Round 6: No. 220 Kalia Davis, DT (Central Florida) (signed)
Round 6: No. 221 Tariq Castro-Fields, CB (Penn State) (signed)
Round 7: No. 262 Brock Purdy, QB (Iowa State) (signed)