49ers roster 2024: Jon Feliciano the wild card in right guard position battle

What exactly will be Jon Feliciano's role with the Niners in 2024?
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Jon Feliciano (55)
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Jon Feliciano (55) / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The 49ers must decide between Dominick Puni and Spencer Burford at right guard, but Jon Feliciano would like a say, too.

The San Francisco 49ers have relatively few starting positions up for grabs heading into training camp. But one of the more glaring question marks is at right guard.

In a sense, it was a question last season, too. Technically, the Niners started then second-year pro Spencer Burford for 14 regular-season games, but he'd find himself coming off the field in a rotation of sorts, platooning with veteran journeyman lineman, Jon Feliciano.

Burford was minimally used in San Francisco's run up to the Super Bowl, and he was primarily responsible for the missed block in the big game against the Kansas City Chiefs that forced the 49ers to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown, a whiff that even Feliciano shockingly called out in the wake of the loss.

The two apparently mended bridges. But they'll be at odds again when training camp rolls around this summer.

What's at stake for Jon Feliciano, 49ers in 2024?

Despite the slightly damaged reputation, Feliciano re-signed with the Niners on a one-year deal this offseason, suggesting he'd likely retire once 2024 was in the books.

At 32 years old, San Francisco appreciates the 6-foot-4, 325-pound lineman's versatility, and he even worked as a first-team center during OTAs while veteran Jake Brendel was dealing with knee issues.

But it's at right guard where Feliciano has the best chance to start.

The 49ers have a history of not caring about draft status or contract amounts when it comes to starting gigs, meaning it's a toss-up between Feliciano, Burford and the Niners' recent rookie draftee, Dominick Puni, who is also in the mix to start right away.

If Burford or Puni win at right guard, Feliciano is still locked in as a go-to backup.

Is that the right long-term move, though?

Should 49ers automatically bump Jon Feliciano down the depth chart?

There's an argument that the only way a player can improve and develop is by, well... playing.

Niners Nation argued in favor of Burford (or Puni) "playing through their mistakes" in 2024, not in a platoon role with Feliciano but as a full-time starter, assuming Puni's development will take a year's time before he, too, gets placed into a starting job.

For the big picture, that certainly makes sense. But it's a bit more challenging when considering San Francisco is in a win-now situation where the best player should be kept atop the depth chart regardless of long-term impact.

Will Feliciano seize that? Will the 49ers feel the same way?

It's a good question, one that won't be answered until later this summer.

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