49ers rookie Garnett 'playing catch up' in quest for starting job


49ers rookie Garnett 'playing catch up' in quest for starting job

ENGLEWOOD, Col. – When the 49ers jumped back into the end of the first round of the NFL Draft to select Stanford guard Joshua Garnett, it was easy to assume the Outland Trophy winner would be a starter in his first season.

Now, it’s not looking like such a simple task for Garnett to break into the lineup in the first week of the regular season.

And that is actually a good thing for the 49ers, who appear to have assembled a much-improved cast of offensive line candidates from a year ago. Garnett played well Sunday against the Houston Texans in his first exhibition game, lining up with the second-team offense.

“The hope is to develop him as quickly as we can,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “But there are other guys in that locker room competing just as hard for those spots. He’s going to earn whatever role he has. If he’s a starter, he’s going to earn it.

“He’s a talented player. That’s why we moved up in the first round to get him. We feel he is a starter in the National Football League. How soon he asserts himself, time will tell.”

[MAIOCCO: All but one spot on 49ers' O-line remain unsettled]

Baalke pointed out the low numbers of offensive linemen who have been able in recent years to break into NFL starting lineups early in their careers.

In 2015, there were 13 offensive linemen selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Seven of those offensive linemen, including two top-10 picks, were primary starters as rookies. The other six players started a combined 16 games.

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Garnett arrived at training camp in a bit of a disadvantage. Garnett had to stay away from the 49ers until the final minicamp in June because of an NFL rule that does not allow rookies to join offseason programs until their school year has concluded. Stanford is on the quarters system and finishes later than most schools.

“He’s playing catch up right now,” Baalke said.

Garnett opened camp at right guard, where he competed against Andrew Tiller, who played well in his seven starts last season. Two weeks ago, Garnett was shifted to left guard, where veteran Zane Beadles has lined up since signing as a free agent in the offseason. Garnett played on the left side at Stanford, where he was chosen as the best interior lineman in the country.

"We thought maybe the best side for us and him is the left side,” 49ers offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said.

The 49ers targeted Garnett at No. 28 in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, taking no chances that he would still be around when the team was scheduled to pick at No. 37. The 49ers sent Kansas City that second-round pick, as well as a fourth-rounder and sixth-rounder, to receive No. 28 and a seventh-round selection.

“You can never have enough depth on the offensive line and you need time to develop it,” Baalke said.

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Kyle Shanahan optimistic 49ers, George Kittle will get contract done

Kyle Shanahan optimistic 49ers, George Kittle will get contract done

General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan finally had a chance to see and talk with 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle in person on Monday.

After the 49ers’ veterans passed coronavirus (COVID-19) testing over the past five days, players were allowed to come into the team's headquarters in Santa Clara and have socially distanced communication with other members of the organization.

Kittle is in Santa Clara despite not coming to terms with a new long-time contract. Both sides recognize the importance of getting a new deal for Kittle, who is scheduled to make $2.133 million in the final year of his original four-year contract.

“We’re working diligently to come to a resolution,” Lynch said of the team’s negotiations with Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Lynch said Monday he and Shanahan visited separately with Kittle.

“We’ve tried to be respectful of the player-agent thing, but it’s always nice just to talk with the player,” Lynch said. “ I think there’s a great understanding that we’re in this thing together, we’re partners, to try to get something done because it makes too much sense not to.”

Kittle’s next contract will certainly make him the highest-paid tight end in the league. Currently, Austin Hooper of Cleveland has the league’s top multi-year contract at $10.5 million a year.

[RELATEDReed, 49ers reach agreement on one-year contract, Lynch confirms]

“We don’t have to say how important George is to us,” Shanahan said. “Not only being the best tight end, to me, in the league, but also the type of person he is. We’re doing everything we can to get that done. I do feel good about it. It was great to see George today for the first time.

“It was great to see George again today. No one’s changed, and I feel really good about this going forward and I’m optimistic about it. Hopefully, something will happen sooner than later. I’m not too concerned about it, though.”

Jordan Reed, 49ers reach agreement on one-year contract, John Lynch says

Jordan Reed, 49ers reach agreement on one-year contract, John Lynch says

The 49ers reached a contract agreement Monday with a tight end not named George Kittle.

The 49ers agreed to a one-year deal with former Washington Football Team tight end Jordan Reed, 30, who has not played in the regular season since the 2018 season. Injuries have plagued Reed throughout his six-year playing career. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports Reed's contract with the 49ers is an incentive-laden.

General manager John Lynch said the team weighed the risks with Reed's injury history and deterimed the reward made the signing the right move for the 49ers.

Reed's best season came in 2015, when he appeared in a career-high 14 games. He caught 87 for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Reed sustained his seventh documented concussion in August 2019 in Washington’s third preseason game. He did not play in any games last season, and Washington released him in February.

Reed played his rookie season of 2013 with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who was Washington’s offensive coordinator from 2010 to ’13. He was a third-round draft pick from Florida.

[RELATEDHow Charlie Woerner won George Kittle over early in 49ers tenure]

Reed joins a group of 49ers tight ends that includes All-Pro George Kittle, whose agent still is in negotiations with the 49ers for a lucrative, long-term contract. Ross Dwelley, Daniel Helm and rookies Charlie Woerner and Chase Harrell are the other tight ends on the 49ers’ roster.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]