SF 49ers: Kyle Shanahan offers small endorsement for Mike McGlinchey

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (69) Mandatory Credit: San Francisco 49ers/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (69) Mandatory Credit: San Francisco 49ers/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network /

The SF 49ers don’t seem intent to give up just yet on their top investment in 2018 NFL Draft, Mike McGlinchey, according to Kyle Shanahan.

The SF 49ers offensive line has been one of the more pressing problems head coach Kyle Shanahan has been forced to deal with this season, and few of the contributors up front have dealt with more criticism than right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

A good chunk of that criticism has been justified. The Niners’ top pick from the 2018 NFL Draft has continued to be one of the league’s better run blockers this season. But in a context where passing the ball has become increasingly important, McGlinchey’s development in that particular area has been disappointing, to say the least.

While McGlinchey’s 76.2 overall Pro Football Focus grade this year is solid, his lowly 59.6 pass-blocking grade is among the lowest tier of starting tackles this season. On top of that, he’s already allowed a team-high 29 quarterback pressures on the year.

Each week, it appears McGlinchey is giving up a crucial pressure or being overworked by bigger, faster pass-rushers. This video shows some of the lowlights from McGlinchey’s 2020 campaign:

So it’s only natural to suggest the quick-take reaction: San Francisco should move on from McGlinchey this offseason.

Except for the fact Shanahan doesn’t appear to be rushing to that conclusion. Take a look at his statements, courtesy of NBC Sports Bay Area, after the SF 49ers’ Week 14 loss to the Washington Football Team where McGlinchey’s hold wiped out a 22-yard gain in the fourth quarter:

"His weight does fluctuate. I think he was lighter this year, but that’s stuff we’ll talk about at the end of the season and hopefully have an offseason to be able to figure out whatever’s best for him."

On the surface, Shanahan’s comments point out questions regarding McGlinchey’s weight, which is important when facing off against strong pass-rushers.

But behind the words, there’s another meaning: Shanahan is offering a modest endorsement about McGlinchey’s immediate future with the Niners.

If Shanahan wanted to move on from McGlinchey this offseason by the way of waiving him, San Francisco would be ponying up nearly $6 million in dead money against just $170,000 in cap savings, per Over the Cap. A trade could net just north of $3 million in cap space, which is slightly more manageable.

Yet the kicker is Shanahan hinted at McGlinchey’s offseason future with the team, more specifically getting him into better shape for 2021. That’s the key point.

Why it doesn’t yet make sense for SF 49ers to move on from Mike McGlinchey

McGlinchey might not be a long-term answer for the SF 49ers. The bigger tell will be this offseason when they’ll be faced with the decision on picking up McGlinchey’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option in 2022. If they do, it’s a decent indicator they want him to stick around.

If not, it still opens up the chance for a possible extension. But that’s a question the Niners will likely ask over the course of 2021. Not now.

The primary reason in light of Shanahan’s comments why San Francisco retains McGlinchey into 2021 is because of the remaining O-line cast. Left tackle Trent Williams, the team’s best contributor here, is a pending free agent and won’t return on a cheap contract. Upgrades are going to be needed at center, provided Weston Richburg fails to return fully healthy, and at right guard.

With a limited amount of cap space — currently at $22 million — for 2021 and a slew of pending free agents needing to be re-signed, adding McGlinchey’s would-be vacancy to the long list of offseason needs would create more problems than solutions.

At least right now.

So it makes sense for Shanahan to offer up a small endorsement for McGlinchey’s immediate future.

Next. NFL Draft: 5 prospects who can fix 49ers offensive line. dark

Even if the SF 49ers don’t plan on the former first-round pick sticking around beyond next season.