SF 49ers free agency: 5 offensive linemen to target in 2021

Alex Mack #51 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Alex Mack #51 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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Trent Williams, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers could stand for some help along their offensive line in 2021, and these pending free agents could be solid fits.

Under general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, the SF 49ers have developed a philosophy about being strongest in the trenches first, then worrying about other positions.

It’s why the Niners have invested so heavily in the offensive and defensive lines in recent years. On the offensive side of the ball, San Francisco used a first-round NFL Draft pick on right tackle Mike McGlinchey and then invested other capital in center Weston Richburg and left tackle Trent Williams.

All that said, the O-line was a position of weakness for the SF 49ers last year. According to Football Outsiders, this unit ranked 22nd in run blocking and ninth in pass protection. A big reason behind the inconsistency was injury, particularly with Richburg missing all of 2020 because of a knee injury suffered late in 2019. That opened up a revolving door at center, and none of the fill-in options were exactly promising.

Currently, according to Over the Cap, the Niners have just $9.54 million in cap space against a predicted $176 million salary cap for the upcoming year. That’ll make it difficult for Lynch and Co. to splurge on linemen in NFL free agency, but it doesn’t mean the team should avoid trying.

Particularly with targeting these five pending free agents.

No. 5: Left Tackle Trent Williams, SF 49ers

One of the big-name free agents San Francisco will look at, of course, is Williams.

The 32-year-old perennial Pro Bowler won’t come cheap. Being realistic, he could likely command a new deal worth in the range of $18 million annually, and it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that’s above what the SF 49ers can afford.

With some roster jockeying and a backloaded contract, though, it’s possible to make something work. Williams, who was named to his eighth Pro Bowl in 2020 after sitting out the previous season, earned an elite-level 91.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last season. Those efforts may have priced him outside the Niners’ financial comfort range.

But all things said, retaining him would ensure some much-needed continuity is maintained along the O-line.