49ers roster: Mike McGlinchey is under the microscope entering 2021

Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The 49ers need to get better play out of right tackle Mike McGlinchey in 2021, or picking up his fifth-year option won’t look so smart of a move.

Perhaps the San Francisco 49ers are feeling a lot better about right tackle Mike McGlinchey‘s immediate and long-term future than most fans out there.

Bluntly stated, 2020 wasn’t McGlinchey’s best as a pro. And while there can be an argument about just how bad it was — some saying and pointing out his run-blocking efforts were elite, while his pass protection was so-so — it is a fairly easy conclusion to make that McGlinchey is far from established as the Niners’ long-term answer at right tackle.

Yet San Francisco elected to pick up his fifth-year option, a fully guaranteed $10.88 million in 2022, per Over the Cap.

That’s an awful lot for a former first-round NFL Draft pick who might be considered on the fringes of being a good starter. And if you were to check out the Niner Noise Podcast’s Chris Wilson’s take on McGlinchey to 49ers legend and former O-lineman Randy Cross, you might get a better idea why the Niners are taking a bit of a gamble here.

Why would 49ers commit so much to Mike McGlinchey?

While it’s not a perfect evaluatory tool, Pro Football Focus gave McGlinchey an elite-level 91.3 run-blocking grade in 2020, but that was almost entirely offset by his 58.3 mark.

In McGlinchey’s defense, he was never an elite-level pass-protection guy at Notre Dame in college, but PFF suggested a regression in this department from his 2019 numbers (70.5), and it’s pretty hard to avoid seeing how poor McGlinchey could be in pass-protection sets.

Simply put, when he looked bad with blocking, he looked downright awful.

Perhaps one of the conditions behind McGlinchey’s fifth-year option being picked up was him putting on some extra weight. He told reporters he started 2020 a bit less than 300 pounds but intends to bulk up for 2021, which could be a good thing.

Yet the wonder point, at least from San Francisco’s vantage point, is whether or not it would have been a good idea to decline that fifth-year option and then wait to see how McGlinchey responded in 2021 to last year’s criticism before deciding upon a potential extension.

Given the greater cap flexibility with an extension, that might have been the smarter choice anyway.

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Especially if the 2021 version of McGlinchey emulates what was seen last year.

Contractually, what’s done is done. The 49ers can’t undo McGlinchey’s fifth-year option now, so they have to bank on the 26 year old rediscovering his upside and turning into a high-quality former first-round draft pick.

It shouldn’t be out of the question either.

The Niners invested a second-round pick in McGlinchey’s former teammate at Notre Dame, Aaron Banks, who could easily slide in at right guard and give both McGlinchey and San Francisco’s offense some much-needed consistency on the right side of the O-line.

If that makes a difference, good.

If it doesn’t, the critics will likely be out in force, paying close attention to him over this year and next in the wake of his option being picked up.

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