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49ers: Beadles release creates four-man competition at guard

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49ers guard offensive line
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The release of offensive lineman Zane Beadles leaves the San Francisco 49ers with two starting guard spots and four potential candidates: Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper and Erik Magnuson.

 

In an inevitable move, the San Francisco 49ers finally parted ways with offensive lineman Zane Beadles on Monday, after two expensive and unproductive seasons. At the conclusion of the 2017 offseason, we discussed Beadles’ potential offseason release, as the versatile lineman’s $4.1 million salary was inconsistent with his level of play on the field, as well as his backup status:

Beadles is a versatile lineman who can play anywhere on the offensive line, but is overpaid for a backup. 2018 is Beadles’ third and final year of his contract with the Niners, and he can be released with little financial penalty to the team. If the 49ers upgrade their offensive line as expected, Beadles — a class act, and a friend of Insidethe49.com — may end up playing for a different team in 2018.

49ers general manager John Lynch had nothing but positive words for Beadles, and even left the door open for a potential return. However, barring serious injuries on the 49ers’ offensive line, Beadles — who posted Pro Football Focus grades under 40 during both of his seasons in San Francisco — is an unlikely candidate to return to the team.

Beadles’ exit means that Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are apparently comfortable with recently extended Garry Gilliam playing the swing-tackle role for the Niners in 2018. We can also infer that Lynch and Shanahan plan to enter the upcoming season with two of four potential candidates — Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper and Erik Magnuson — manning the 49ers’ starting guard spots.

The left guard position is Laken Tomlinson’s job to lose after the former first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions earned a fairly respectable 70.7 PFF rating over 15 games in San Francisco last season, which was good for 32nd best in the league.

If Tomlinson holds down one starting spot, the job of starting right guard will be a competition between two additional former first-rounders — and potentially one former undrafted free agent.

Jonathan Cooper will likely get the first shot at the job, after the 49ers signed the guard to a starter-caliber one-year contract that includes $4 million in guarantees. Cooper started 13 games with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, and is completing his recovery from post-season knee surgery.

The 49ers’ 2016 first-round draft pick Joshua Garnett will compete with Cooper — as well as Tomlinson — after spending 2017 transforming his body in an attempt to fit into Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. After following up a solid college career with an NFL rookie season to forget, Garnett’s 2018 season will likely determine his future with the franchise.

The dark horse in the guard competition is second-year lineman Erik Magnuson. The 2017 undrafted free agent played both tackle and guard in college, before starting two games at tackle for the 49ers last season. Magnuson also worked to learn the center position last year, so if he’s unable to win a starting spot at guard, he could play a vital Beadles-type role as a backup lineman capable of playing anywhere on the line.

With the center and tackle positions set, here’s my way-too-early prediction for the San Francisco 49ers’ opening-day offensive line:

1. LT Joe Staley
2. LG Laken Tomlinson
3. C Weston Richburg
4. RG Jonathan Cooper
5. RT Mike McGlinchey
6. T Garry Gilliam
7. C/G/T Erik Magnuson
8. G Joshua Garnett
9. Free-agent signing, otherwise T/G Darrell Williams

If the 49ers decide to go this light at the center position, expect the team to retain a center on the practice squad who can step into a backup or potential starting role in case of injury.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pliadisfoto

    May 11, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Malonu skaityti!

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