OK, it’s time.
Now that the 49ers have played their first exhibition game, the San Francisco braintrust should know it’s time to work out a new deal with guard Alex Boone.
Plan B isn’t going to work.
Joe Looney showed he’s not up to Boone’s level while starting at right guard against the Ravens in last Thursday’s exhibition game, backup guard Adam Snyder was injured in weekend practices with the Ravens and offensive-line addition Jonathan Martin has sometimes been overpowered physically in practices and drills.
The 49ers – who have big hopes this season of a more potent offense – need Boone back at right guard. Already, the 49ers know they’ll go through some rough spots with Daniel Kilgore or Marcus Martin at center (replacing Jonathan Goodwin). So they need Boone back in the lineup, and they need him back soon so he’s 100 percent good to go by the Sept. 7 opening date.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that no progress has been made in negotiations between the team and Boone. And, the team has had a no-negotiation policy with holdout players.
But it’s about time for the Niners to send a signal to Boone that if he returns, there will soon be a new deal for him.
Yet Rapoport also reported that other teams are now contacting the 49ers about trading for Boone, who’s been terrific as a starting right guard, but also could be used at tackle – the position he played at Ohio State and in his first years in the NFL.
If that’s the case, are the 49ers truly ready to go into 2014 with Looney at right guard?
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Looney played 24 snaps vs. the Ravens and struggled often. Pro Football Focus game him a very poor -0.7 grade and he often appeared to play too high and get blown up by defenders.
Barrows noted one third-and-short run in which Looney was too high in his block of Baltimore nose tackle Brandon Williams, who shed Looney and tackled Jewel Hampton for a 1-yard loss.
“Yeah, it’s something I need to work on,” Looney told Barrows. “Coaches have told me what I need to work on, and I’m going to continue to get better at it.”
But even if Looney improves, the offensive line group will be much thinner and less talented without Boone. That will be especially so if Snyder’s injuries are serious.
The 49ers have remained quiet about Boone. Baalke says it’s not wise to discuss contract negotiations in the media.
“It’s between the team and the player and we’ll leave it at that,” he said.
But Boone is still playing on the deal he had before he became a starter. It’s time for the team to reward him with a new deal that reflects his contributions.
If the 49ers want to stay ahead of the Rams and Cardinals in the NFC West and overcome the Seahawks, they’re going to need a good, physical offensive line.
And a line with Boone at right guard will be far superior to one with Looney.