49ers 2020 ‘Who Is?’ series: Can Tom Compton make the roster?

Tom Compton #77 of the New York Jets (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Tom Compton #77 of the New York Jets (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The 49ers’ free-agent addition of Tom Compton could work out, but the right guard isn’t guaranteed a roster spot.

The San Francisco 49ers inked former New York Jets right guard Tom Compton to a one-year free-agent deal, replacing their previous starter at the position, Mike Person, who was released after two years with the Niners.

It was something of an interesting move, as Person was a solid-if-not-spectacular contributor during his two-year stead.

Compton, who just turned 31 years old, was originally drafted by the Washington Redskins in Round 6 of the 2012 NFL Draft. He spent the majority of his first season on Washington’s practice squad, eventually seeing field time as a reserve between 2013 and 2015, even as a fullback and linebacker at times.

He then spent 2016 with the Atlanta Falcons, 2017 with the Chicago Bears, 2018 with the Minnesota Vikings and last year with the Jets, all of which culminated in 99 games played and 34 starts.

But it’s Compton’s time with both the Redskins and Falcons which should draw 49ers fans’ attentions.

Compton’s time with both teams correlates with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s tenure with both squads, giving the lineman an in-depth understanding of Shanahan’s intricate and complex offensive system.

That alone helps explain why Shanahan made Compton a free-agent priority entering 2020.

But as Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series suggests, Compton is anything but a sure bet to make the 53-man roster out of training camp.

Why Tom Compton improves with 49ers in 2020

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman’s return to a Shanahan offense could provide a nice boost, as he should transition in relatively seamlessly.

A year ago, Pro Football Focus awarded Compton with an unimpressive 49.7 overall grade in a full-time starter’s role. It might be expected Compton’s play improves with a far-better supporting cast along the offensive line, as Football Outsiders ranked the Jets’ O-line 30th in pass protection and 31st in run blocking a year ago.

In 2014, when Compton saw 650 snaps with the Redskins while Shanahan was there, PFF’s grade for him was a respectable 63.3.

That’s the hope and goal for a player like Compton amid his new role and squad.

Why Tom Compton regresses with 49ers in 2020

Compton appears to be one of those fringe players who are somewhere between a decent reserve and potential starting candidate.

Those are important players, yes. But the Niners already boast a number of linemen who fit into this category. Interior lineman Ben Garland is back on a one-year deal, and the versatile Daniel Brunskill showcased his value at multiple spot, including right guard, last season as well.

Both of these players could challenge Compton for playing time this season, particularly with the starting job.

In order to secure more reps in camp, Compton will need to outperform both and prove he’s far more valuable than what the previous starter/reserve role he’s held nearly everywhere he’s been since joining the league in 2012.

Chances of making the 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2020

If Brunskill didn’t look like a player to watch heading into the season, Compton would stand an excellent chance to make the regular-season roster.

Considering his one-year, $2.7 million deal includes only $750,000 in dead money if cut, the Niners could easily move on with a relatively small amount of financial ramifications.

Compton seems to understand this.

“The plan is to compete for the right guard position,” Compton told 49ers.com’s Keiana Martin. “They’re obviously not just going to hand it to me. It’s definitely something that has to be earned, so my mindset is that I’m competing for the right guard spot.”

The battle between Brunskill and Compton will be one to watch in training camp, and it’s likely the two will start off splitting reps with the first-team unit.

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If Compton wins out, his place on the roster seems much safer, as does Brunskill’s because of his versatility. But if Brunskill wins, there’s a better-than-strong chance Compton winds up being one of those cut in advance of Week 1.