Veteran additions increase competition on 49ers' O-line

Veteran additions increase competition on 49ers' O-line

SANTA CLARA -- In general manager John Lynch’s first draft, the 49ers broke a streak of seven consecutive years in which the club selected at least one offensive lineman. In those seven years, the 49ers drafted 14 offensive linemen.

Instead, the 49ers turned to the veteran market to increase competition and depth along the offensive line.

“There really is a lot of competition,” 49ers offensive line coach John Benton said. “We came in trying to create it, and it’s turning out that way, regardless. We got competition going on at every spot, and at every level of the group, as well.”

The 49ers return their primary starters from last season: left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Zane Beadles, center Daniel Kilgore, right guard Joshua Garnett and right tackle Trent Brown.

Then, the 49ers added four offensive linemen with significant starting experience: center/guard Jeremy Zuttah (Tampa Bay/Baltimore), guard Brandon Fusco (Minnesota), center Tim Barnes (Rams) and tackle Garry Gilliam (Seattle).

Zuttah and Barnes are in competition with Kilgore. Zuttah, who has been held out of practices due to a lingering hamstring condition, also has significant experience at guard. The 49ers will have to ultimately determine whether the team’s line is stronger with Zuttah working at center or one of the guard spots.

“We’re going to have to do that at some point,” Benton said. “I’m not too concerned with ‘when’ at this point. Obviously, Jeremy Zuttah hasn’t been able to practice, so (we’re) maybe not getting the same rotation we were hoping to this point. But the way practice is now – without pads, without it really being ‘real football’ – we’re probably going to have to wait until training camp anyway to see that go.”

Staley is the only player along the offensive line that appears completely set as a starter. There is some level of intrigue at every other position, as Benton tries to figure out which sides of the line are the best fits for Garnett and Fusco.

“One of the things that excited us about bringing in Brandon Fusco and Tim Barnes, just to add to that (competition),” Benton said. “(They are) guys who’ve had quality careers to date and know what it takes in this league and add to the mix from a competition standpoint. It could only make us all better.

“I think it’ll be a great competition, and we’ll end up better off for it, regardless.”

49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks


49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks

The 49ers hosted two veteran cornerbacks on free-agent visits the past two days and could be signing either Jaylen Watkins or LaDarius Gunter as they wind down their activity on the free-agent market.

“We’re really pleased with what we’ve done,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday. “I’ll never say never. We’ve had a couple of guys visit in the last couple of days. Perhaps we’ll do something there. But for the most part, we’re wrapped up and pleased with what we’ve been able to do.”

The 49ers do not have much depth behind presumptive starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. The team is also likely to add to its depth in the draft.

The 49ers met with Gunter (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) on Thursday. Gunter, 25, started 15 games for the Green Bay Packers in 2016. He recorded 54 tackles and broke up 12 passes. He signed with the Packers in 2015 as an undrafted rookie from Miami.

Gunter was waived at the beginning of last season and the Carolina Panthers claimed him. He appeared in just four games with Carolina, which did not tender him as a restricted free agent.

The 49ers on Wednesday met with Watkins, 26, a versatile defensive back who appeared in 36 games with five starts in four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watkins (5-11, 195) played three snaps on defense and 17 plays on special teams in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. He entered the NFL in 2014 as a fourth-round draft pick from Florida.

Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'


Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'

STANFORD – Free-agent safety Eric Reid chatted with 49ers general manager John Lynch on the sideline, then moved into position onto the field for an up-close view of his brother’s pro day workout Thursday at Stanford University.

Younger brother, Justin, is aiming to be a first-round draft pick like Eric, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Both football futures of the Reid brothers remain uncertain. Justin's fate will be determined on draft day. Eric Reid remains in limbo as an NFL free agent. He has not gotten any action in the first week of free agency, and the 49ers have not made him a contract offer, he said.

But Lynch said the 49ers are closely monitoring Reid’s situation. However, the organization already has three safeties they like: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert.

“Eric played and played well for us last year,” Lynch said. “I think he’s stuck in a safety market that’s been quiet. And I would anticipate things starting to shake for him and we’ll see.

“I’d never say never. I really do think opportunities will start to come his way. We’ve been monitoring it closely and we’ll see how that shakes out.”

Reid, 26, a six-year NFL veteran, said his agent has spoken recently to “a couple of teams,” but no contracts or visits have been proposed.

Reid’s market might be impacted by his up-front role in the protests of racial inequality of the past two seasons. Reid and Colin Kaepernick were the first players to take a knee during the national anthem at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Reid said he would probably not take part in any future protests during the national anthem.

“From the beginning, Colin has been flexible,” Reid said. “He started by sitting. He changed it up. We decided to kneel. And we understand that you got to change with the times. So I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country to improve on.

“I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem, because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”

Reid said he has no regrets. He said he is willing to deal with the consequences of how NFL teams viewed his role in the protests.

“I stand by what I’ve done,” Reid said. “I know why I’ve done it. My faith in God is the reason. I can go to sleep at night confident I did what I was called to do. I’m just gong to stay positive and keep trying to stay in shape and wait and see what happens.

“I said at the end of last season I’m OK no matter what happens.”