Guard Alex Boone said on Wednesday afternoon that the MCL tear he suffered in Sunday’s loss to Cleveland will put him on a week-to-week timetable, making his return this season doubtful.
But with the offensive line — perhaps the 49ers weakest spot — sure to be an offseason priority, San Francisco’s front office should be more concerned with whether impending free agent Boone returns for next season as well.
But despite the turmoil surrounding the future of the team both on and off the field, Boone said he would leave the door open for a return to the team that gave him a shot after going undrafted in 2009:
“This is my home. These are my brothers, this is my family. I’ll listen to anything.”
With so few options available to them as internal replacements for Boone, the 49ers may very well make the sixth-year veteran lineman a focal point of their offseason revamp.
Should Boone leave, the 49ers will have more question marks along their line than answers, with Staley and C Daniel Kilgore representing the only model of consistency along the unit.
San Francisco has been reluctant to pay Boone in the past, leading to a holdout from team activities prior to the 2014 season. But their desperation along the offensive line may lead to a decent pay raise from his current $3.4 million annual salary.
With a multitude of teams across the league being hampered by poor line play this season, Boone — 31st in the NFL among guards according to Pro Football Focus — may draw the attention of many other suitors.
His ability to play multiple positions along the line will only increase his value — and increase the 49ers competition among suitors — make it more likely he will command a top-dollar asking price.
But while the sixth-year veteran may be looking to bask in the spoils of his first free agency, he hopes that the 49ers will be among those giving his agent a call:
“I’m exited about free agency, but at the same time I’d love to hear an offer from the Niners. But at the end of the day, I’ll let things work out the way they are.”
According to Spotrac, Boone’s $3.4 million base salary in 2015 is is the sixth-highest in the league, though his total cash value ranks in at a modest 20th overall.
The 49ers currently have $7.75 million in base salaries invested amongst O-line starters Staley, C Daniel Kilgore and RT Eric Pears in 2016.
Head coach Jim Tomsula has persistently defended Pears, though it stands to reason that the 49ers may look to ditch his $1.45 million contract in order to upgrade at the right tackle position, likely with a cheaper alternative using a high draft pick in 2016.
Re-signing Boone would represent an expensive investment, but it would be an important step at shoring up one of the league’s worst offensive lines and restoring the smash-mouth brand of football upon which the 49ers thrive.
Boone, Staley and Kilgore represent three solid lineman for the 49ers, so San Francisco can look to save money on the right side of the line with high draft picks and a cheap option in G Andrew Tiller as a possible starter for 2016.
He hasn’t seen much of the field this year, but Tiller ranks as PFF’s 19th best guard in the league during his 406 snaps on the season. As pointed out by NinersFans.com‘s Ryan Sakamoto, Tiller could be a cheap option to compete — and possibly excel — at right guard.