49ers to pick up Mike McGlinchey’s fifth-year option, smart move?

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 49ers confirmed they’re picking up the fifth-year option for their 2018 first-round NFL Draft pick, Mike McGlinchey, yet there are question marks.

No player along the San Francisco 49ers offensive line drew more criticism last year than right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who while notably exceptional in run support was a major liability in pass protection.

Nevertheless, Niners general manager John Lynch told reporters on Monday the team is planning on picking up McGlinchey’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option between now and the deadline to do so on May 3.

On the upside, picking up the option ensures a bit more continuity along San Francisco’s O-line entering 2021. McGlinchey has been a regular starter ever since the 49ers selected him at No. 9 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, appearing in 44 games over his three-year career and all of them starts.

Doing so ensures McGlinchey will be under team control through 2022.

At the same time, however, the decision to guarantee McGlinchey through that point is awfully questionable.

49ers should have either extended Mike McGlinchey or let him play in a contract year

McGlinchey’s fifth-year option will cost the Niners $10.88 million fully guaranteed in 2022, per Over the Cap. Granted, that’s not terrible for a starting-caliber offensive tackle in a middle-of-the-pack tier. Keep in mind, left tackle Trent Williams has an average annual value of $23 million on his new six-year deal.

Yet Williams is a perennial Pro Bowler. McGlinchey, meanwhile, remains a work in progress.

True, McGlinchey’s 91.3 run-blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus, is elite. But McGlinchey has shown little development with his pass protection, evidenced by PFF’s lowly 58.3 grade for him in this department a year ago. In 2020, McGlinchey allowed five sacks but also 37 quarterback pressures. Not all of those should be solely pegged on McGlinchey, of course. Yet it’s more than safe enough to suggest pass protection isn’t his strong suit.

It never was, even coming out of college at Notre Dame.

San Francisco could have afforded to take a “wait and see” approach with McGlinchey in 2021, observing whether or not year four would have generated the improvements in support of the pass that were desired. Even an extension, which would have likely included far less in fully guaranteed money, would have made a bit more sense.

Unless the 49ers would have offered up something like a three-year fully guaranteed contract, which they wouldn’t do.

What’s also slightly troubling is the 2021 NFL Draft is labeled as being deep with offensive linemen, including many starting-caliber options who could be had on day three of the draft itself. While transitioning from a veteran to a rookie is always tricky, particularly in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s complex outside-zone blocking system, grabbing a rookie tackle with one of the Niners’ nine picks in this year’s draft would have potentially afforded the time for a rookie to develop, eventually paving the way to take over for McGlinchey in 2022.

For now, however, it doesn’t appear as if that’ll be the case. Instead, fans can only hope McGlinchey shows that much-needed pass-protection improvement his fourth year at the NFL level.

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