The 49ers’ selection of West Virginia offensive lineman Colton McKivitz could spell the end for veteran swing tackle Shon Coleman.
On the surface, it would appear the San Francisco 49ers are eyeing one of their newest members, former West Virginia offensive tackle Colton McKivitz, as a primary backup player for the interior of their offensive line in 2020. Perhaps beyond.
McKivitz, taken in Round 5 and at No. 153 overall in this year’s NFL Draft, primarily played tackle at the collegiate level, although he moved around the line quite a bit. And while penciling him as a starter right away is much too far-fetched an idea, particularly with San Francisco’s starting O-lineman cast apparently set, figuring out the kind of role McKivitz will handle his rookie season makes for what should be an interesting training camp battle between now and Week 1.
One of the players potentially affected by McKivitz’s presence is the veteran tackle, Shon Coleman.
Coleman, of course, missed all of 2019 with a broken ankle suffered in the Niners’ first preseason bout against the Dallas Cowboys. Having signed a one-year deal to back up the then-starting tackle tandem of Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, Coleman’s injury opened up the door for younger linemen Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule to see much more playing time.
In the case of Brunskill, who could end up a starter in 2020, it was a blessing in disguise.
San Francisco brought Coleman back on a one-year deal during the offseason, which guarded against the eventual loss of Staley to retirement as well as prepared for a contingency plan if the team wasn’t able to draft McKivitz.
But the Niners drafted McKivitz, and that action could put Coleman’s tenure with the team in danger this offseason.
Determining the 49ers’ O-line pecking order behind the starters
Coleman’s one-year deal is a shade below $1 million, and the dead money would only be $137,500 if cut. So there are almost zero financial ramifications if the 29 year old loses out in competition during training camp.
McKivitz’s nastiness and versatility should work in his favor, too, combined with the fact he’s younger and would appear to have a stronger chance fitting into San Francisco’s long-term plans.
Under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, teams can now carry 48 active players for game day provided one of the two extra players is an O-lineman. Previously, seven players would typically be dressed: five starters, a swing tackle and a reserve interior player.
This could bode well for both McKivitz and Coleman, especially if Brunskill winds up securing a starting job and fellow guard Tom Compton fails to make the 53-man roster. But one might figure Skule working into the equation, too. Head coach Kyle Shanahan hasn’t shown a tendency to move players around the offensive line, though, so most players would fit into the proverbial “plug and play” mentality at each position.
Unless he suffers an injury or complete meltdown in camp, McKivitz likely makes the cut based on versatility alone. So he’d likely be one of the interior backups with the potential of serving as a reserve swing tackle with Skule.
Tack on backup center Ben Garland, and there are your three 53-man roster backups.
The more things shake out, the more it looks as if Coleman will be on the outside, looking in once training camp and the preseason finish up.