Solomon Thomas has been a major disappointment for the 49ers. That cannot be denied.
Typically, when a defensive lineman is selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft, he is expected to produce more than six sacks over his first three seasons. That's precisely how many Thomas has after the first three seasons of his NFL career.
He has not been the impact player the 49ers expected him to be, which is part of the reason why they declined his fifth-year option earlier this month. Had they picked it up, Thomas would have been owed $12.321 million for the 2021 season. That was never going to happen.
As a result of not having his fifth-year option picked up, Thomas essentially is a pending free agent. Consequently, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski included him within his early predictions for the most surprising veteran cuts of the 2020 offseason, in which he mentions that cutting Thomas would open up an additional $4.4 million in cap space for San Francisco.
That's not chump change, but it seems highly unlikely the 49ers would part ways with Thomas before the 2020 season. He might be a disappointment thus far, but they need him.
With DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day now playing for the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers have a big hole to fill in the middle of their defensive line. First-round pick Javon Kinlaw and veteran D.J. Jones are expected to get the majority of reps on the interior line, but they can't do it alone. San Francisco's depth along the D-line was a major reason for the team's success last season.
As The Athletic's David Lombardi pointed out, Thomas has played more snaps on the interior with each successive season of his career -- where he has been more effective -- culminating with 51 percent of his snaps being taken at tackle in 2019. Given the departures of Buckner and Day, it stands to reason that trend will continue in 2020, assuming Thomas is still around.
And, as NBC Sports' Matt Maiocco suggested, just because the 49ers declined Thomas' fifth-year option doesn't necessarily mean they don't want to keep him around long-term. Two years ago, guard Laken Tomlinson was in a very similar situation. His fifth-year option -- which would have paid him $9.625 million -- was declined. Two months later, he signed a four-year, $18 million contract extension.
In the time since, Tomlinson has proved himself worth that offer. We'll see if Thomas gets the chance to do the same.
Even if he doesn't, you can count on him playing for the 49ers in 2020.
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