Don’t expect 49ers to sign free-agent guard Larry Warford

Larry Warford #67 of the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Larry Warford #67 of the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers would probably like to sign former New Orleans Saints guard Larry Warford to bolster the offensive line. But cap restraints likely restrict any would-be deal.

Would 28-year-old offensive guard Larry Warford help the San Francisco 49ers offensive line?


Would the Niners make a move to acquire the new free agent?

Probably not.

The New Orleans Saints recently released Warford, opening up the door for their newest NFL Draft addition, former Michigan interior lineman Cesar Ruiz. This saved the Saints roughly $13 million in salary, which is an obvious financial bonus. But for a team on the cusp of a Super Bowl championship, it’s somewhat of a provocative move.

Like New Orleans, San Francisco is amid its own Super Bowl window. And it’s not hard to understand why the 49ers would be suggested as a team potentially interested in a superior pass blocker like Warford. Case in point, last year, the Niners O-line ranked 15th in pass protection last year, according to Football Outsiders. And Warford would surely provide an upgrade along the interior.

The 49ers also revamped their offensive line, both by choice and by outside circumstance. The first move was to part ways with veteran right guard Mike Person, then signing former New York Jets guard Tom Compton. San Francisco was forced to replace left tackle Joe Staley, who announced his retirement during the draft, and got exceptionally lucky by trading two mid-round picks to the Washington Redskins for perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams.

Meanwhile, Compton figures to compete with last year’s unsung hero, Daniel Brunskill, for starting duties at right guard in 2020.

Warford, a three-time Pro Bowler, is a massive upgrade over both.

So, why wouldn’t the Niners make the phone call?

Like so much consideration when news like this comes out, so much of it comes down to money. Warford, in the prime of his career, is going to command a hefty salary wherever he winds up playing next, perhaps in that $13 million range. Maybe higher. Currently, San Francisco has $16,645,549 in available cap space, according to Over the Cap, which doesn’t account for the money needed to sign the 49ers’ rookie draft class. There are always ways the Niners could clear cap space, such as trying to trade running back Tevin Coleman while freeing up nearly $5 million.

But that would involve finding a partner willing to part ways with an asset while taking on a substantial amount of money for a player who has only rarely been a featured offensive weapon.

Probably not likely.

There’s another reason why fans shouldn’t expect San Francisco to go after a player like Warford, even if he’d provide a massive boost to the upfront blockers: general manager John Lynch’s comments.

“There’s always an opportunity to get better,” Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “We do like where our roster is at. We’re extremely happy with where it’s at. I don’t anticipate anything big coming — and we are kind of nudged up against the cap, as well.”

Granted, Lynch wouldn’t reveal his plans openly. That’s not what good executives do. Yet all the evidence points to the 49ers being in the kind of situation where landing a player like Warford would be too difficult without endangering the team’s other priorities, such as extending players like tight end George Kittle.

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Perhaps the Niners are able to engineer something, yes. There are plenty of ways San Francisco can engineer the necessary space.

Just don’t bank on it happening.