The 49ers made some roster moves on Friday, tendering exclusive-rights free-agent OL Daniel Brunskill while releasing DE Ronald Blair.
In addition, the Niners announced they released defensive lineman Ronald Blair.
Retaining Brunskill was a no-brainer deal. Even though the former undrafted free agent out of San Diego State struggled last season after being asked to move from right guard to center in the wake of so many injuries the team suffered there, the former Alliance of American Football standout was still a versatile and serviceable piece between 2019 and 2020. He did, after all, fill in at essentially every position along the offensive line aside from left guard over that two-year stretch, and backups of that caliber aren’t always easy to find.
Plus, with ERFAs only being allowed to negotiate deals with the teams holding their rights, there was no reason for San Francisco to move on anyway.
And for those trying to understand how ERFA tenders work, this from Over the Cap should help:
"The tender carries no guarantees and is for the minimum salary that the CBA allows a player to play for. Because the salaries are so cheap, for most teams it makes no impact on a team’s salary cap position if they already had 51 players under contract. Basically this is no different than a futures deal impact.The ERFA tender does block free agency so once a player is tendered there is really no reason for them not to sign the tender. In many cases players will sign a new contract rather than be tendered though too often those contracts contain splits and waivers which would not exist if tendered."
The 49ers will likely try bolstering the depth at center this offseason, particularly if they move on from injured starter Weston Richburg as a cap casualty. And the hope would be for Brunskill, who started a full 16 games last year, to stay in one spot at right guard while only being asked to vacate that position in the wake of injuries elsewhere.
49ers give Ronald Blair an early jump on NFL free agency
It wasn’t likely the Niners were going to re-sign Blair, a 2021 free agent, to a new deal after he missed all of last year with an ACL tear suffered late in 2019.
Blair, whom San Francisco selected in Round 5 of the 2016 NFL Draft, has spent his entire career with the 49ers up to this point, notching 13.5 sacks in a reserve role, which included a career-best 5.5 back in 2018.
The early release allows Blair to get an early start on the NFL free agency period, which officially kicks off on March 17.
While Blair is now free to sign with any team, it wouldn’t be shocking to see his former defensive coordinator, now-New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, try luring Blair over to that side of the country to join what’s going to be a rebuilding defense.
“I love Ronnie. I’ve gushed about him up here and I can do it for another 15 minutes if you all like,” Saleh told reporters of Blair back in 2019. “You guys know how I feel about him. He looked fantastic and he’s looked like that, to me, his entire career, it just goes unnoticed when he’s not the big name, he’s not the big draft pick. But, he’s your lunch pail, gets things done, makes things work, get people lined up. He does it all. I’m happy we have him… he’s a playmaker.”
With more than enough cap space and the need for quality depth on defense, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Saleh lure Blair towards the Jets.
If so, one can only hope Blair winds up having an excellent second chapter of his career in New York.