No. 2: Tight End Vance McDonald
Tight end Vance McDonald may feel like he has been on a seesaw over the last six months or so.
In December, former GM Trent Baalke signed McDonald to a five-year extension worth $35 million after McDonald posted career-best numbers in yards (391), receptions (24) and touchdowns (four).
However, the NFL can also stand for “not for long”, and McDonald may be the next to fall prey to it unless he ups his game this summer.
San Francisco 49ers
As the Niners were in the midst of the 2017 NFL Draft, they received inquiries about McDonald’s availability. Doing their due diligence, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan listened but ultimately passed on making the trade.
For now, that is.
The fact Shanahan and Lynch were up front with him was not taken lightly by McDonald, as he explained in an interview with ESPN.
McDonald will have a chance to compete for the starting job, but the team took steps to shore up the position and add even more competition by signing Logan Paulsen as a free agent, selecting Iowa tight end George Kittle and also signing UDFA Cole Hikutini to a guaranteed $100,000 contract, which is a sign they like the Louisville product.
With Blake Bell and Garrett Celek in the mix as well, the position will have plenty of competition for the final 53-man roster.
McDonald certainly has improved his game since his rookie year in 2013. But the manner in which Shanahan uses tight ends in a variety of unique ways, running four-verticals that puts the No. 1 receiver in as a checkdown, while sending two tight ends and a running back deep to spread defenses.
If McDonald can adjust to the new wrinkles Shanahan will run for the tight ends, he should be able to carve out a spot. But his transition into this new role is no sure thing. So it’ll be interesting to see if he can find his niche.
Otherwise, the team may have a fresh face lining up at tight end against the Carolina in Week 1.