49ers roster 2023: Colton McKivitz gets his chance to shine

The Niners appear to believe in Colton McKivitz far more than the fanbase does.
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Colton McKivitz
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Colton McKivitz / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Spending the last three years as a backup, Colton McKivitz is all but entrenched as the 49ers' new starting right tackle.

Not long before the start of 2023 NFL free agency, the San Francisco 49ers engineered an extension for backup offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, their fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of West Virginia.

This move all but signaled the end of starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey's tenure with the Niners, and he would subsequently go on and sign a lucrative free-agent deal with the Denver Broncos not long thereafter.

Now, all signs are pointing to McKivitz starting in McGlinchey's stead.

It's been something of a challenging journey for McKivitz, who even found himself off San Francisco's roster in 2021 after not surviving final pre-Week 1 roster cuts. From that point, McKivitz is now pegged to be the 49ers' starting right tackle.

All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams couldn't be happier, telling NBC Sports Bay Area the following:

"He deserves it. He’s put in the work. Every year he’s been presented with a challenge coming into camp – whether it’s fighting to make the practice squad at first, make the roster last year and then – due to numbers – have to go on the practice squad for a few weeks. Bring him back up, start a few games – he’s been through it all … except for being a Day 1 starter. He’s earned it."

While McKivitz might be a downgrade from McGlinchey in many regards, the Niners nevertheless feel confident in the former's ability to make the transition as seamless as possible.

They've done it before, too.

Colton McKivitz to become 49ers' latest development success story?

One of the reasons why San Francisco has been able to keep a Super Bowl window open for quite some time despite having top-dollar contracts for a large number of key players, including Williams, is because of the team's ability to turn unknown names into quality players and starters.

From 2019 through 2022, Daniel Brunskill was a versatile offensive lineman capable of starting at any of the O-line's five positions, and he was grabbed off the former Alliance of American Football scrap heap. Ben Garland was another backup who turned into a decent starting center for the better part of two seasons, and the 49ers have also transitioned Jake Brendel from an unknown journeyman reservist into a good starter last year.

McKivitz got his extension, so the Niners have him under control for the upcoming two seasons at a relatively cheap cost, as far as starting right tackles are concerned.

How much will the 49ers pay Colton McKivitz this season?

As far as that two-year extension McKivitz signed prior to the beginning of the 2023 league new year, Over the Cap has it valued up to $4.56 million, $1.87 million of it guaranteed.

With an average annual salary of $2.28 million, McKivitz is significantly cheaper than the average starting right tackle, who'd likely earn something in the realm of $5 million to $7 million per year.

But San Francisco didn't overcommit to McKivitz for too long, and he might look to take a Brunskill-like path and test his own free-agent waters in 2025.

That's a problem for another time, though.

What should 49ers fans expect from Colton McKivitz in 2023?

For all the grief that McGlinchey often had during his 49ers tenure, he was an elite run blocker and probably wasn't as terrible in pass protection as many think.

McKivitz isn't going to be quite at that level, and even the Niners' offensive line coach, Chris Foerster, agreed about the drop:

“Mike McGlinchey is one of the best run-blocking tackles in the NFL,” Foerster said. “Colton probably won't be quite that, but he is a very good run-blocker and his protection is really solid and consistent.”

Read more: 49ers believe in Colton McKivitz more than you do

San Francisco knows this and will likely do its best to help cover up any deficiencies McKivitz has in his game, perhaps sliding protection over to his side and/or tossing in an extra blocker on run plays in that direction.

From that vantage point, it might be difficult to see a dramatic drop from McGlinchey to McKivitz, and that'd certainly make the fans happy.

As long as McKivitz isn't getting beaten on nearly every rep in pass protection, he likely won't draw the ire of the fanbase either.

If nothing else, he at least has that opportunity now, and that's a move in the right direction even if the results aren't yet known.

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