SF 49ers: ACL tear is devastating for Solomon Thomas’ career

Solomon Thomas #94 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Solomon Thomas #94 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers lost both Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to ACL tears in Week 2, but Thomas’ injury is a massive blow to his up-and-down career.

SF 49ers EDGE Nick Bosa has already solidified himself as one of the NFL’s best defensive players. Defensive end Solomon Thomas, will likely never get over being associated with the word, bust, after failing to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon a No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Both players suffered season-ending ACL tears during the Niners’ 31-13 Week 2 win over the New York Jets last Sunday. And both injuries came within mere plays of each other, too.

Yet Bosa and Thomas’ respective careers were on entirely different trajectories. Despite his injury, Bosa will likely wind up being one of, if not the top-paid defensive player in the league in the not-so-distant future.

Thomas, meanwhile, was fighting for his NFL career entering 2020.

San Francisco elected not to pick up Thomas’ fifth-year option, meaning he’d be pegged for free agency barring any move by general manager John Lynch to re-sign him, perhaps as nothing more than a reserve player featured in mere support roles — the kind of duties Thomas has been performing for almost all of 2019 and into the first two weeks of 2020.

Now, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not he’ll get that chance.

OK, so Thomas will never return the desired level of return the SF 49ers were hoping for when they selected him third overall back in 2017. And he’ll be associated with that “bust” moniker likely for the rest of his career. Yet 2020 provided one last shot for Thomas to showcase his value, even if that was to be only in a support role.

Will SF 49ers, anyone else take a chance on Solomon Thomas in 2021?

Despite Thomas owning just six sacks in his pro career and never having more than three in a single season, the Niners at least found him serviceable in a versatile backup role to support their strongest unit, the defensive line. In 2019, Thomas still managed to get on the field for 41 percent of defensive snaps, a good number for a backup player.

But backup players are relatively easy to find on the free-agent market and deeper in the NFL Draft. It’s hard to imagine, although not impossible, San Francisco making serious strides to keep Thomas around in 2021 and beyond.

The added wrinkle now, however, is the ACL tear. Thomas isn’t a perennial injury risk, of course. Yet players coming off such injuries rarely command anywhere close the financial value they’d otherwise receive on the open market. This could work in the 49ers’ favor, and thereby Thomas’ by default. But it’s also just as possible Thomas winds up being cast off to the free-agent market.

Are there any teams out there with significant interest, especially for an underachieving former first-round pick coming off a serious injury?

Probably not.

That’s where Thomas’ knee injury is devastating. It’s hard enough seeing a young player suffer an injury of this nature so early in his career. For someone who was struggling to resurrect what was a disappointing start to his NFL tenure, it’s tremendously terrible.

Next. 3 free-agent options 49ers must consider after Nick Bosa injury. dark

Regardless of the unknown outcome, all one can do is hope Thomas finally bounces back and makes a sizable impact wherever he plays, if anywhere, in 2021.