As 49ers fans anxiously await word of quarterback Alex Smith’s new deal and which of several free-agent wide receivers will be added from a group of candidates that includes Mario Manningham, Brandon Lloyd and Chaz Schillens, there is now another concern:
How will the Niners replace Adam Snyder at right guard?
It’s all well and good to have a quarterback in place and some wide receivers to catch his passes, but without an effective offensive line, all those X’s and O’s in coach Jim Harbaugh’s playbook are just so much scribbling.
It was Snyder’s insertion at right guard, replacing an inconsistent Chilo Rachal, that sparked the 49ers’ running game and solidified pass protection early in the 2011 season. Once Snyder replaced Rachal during the third game of the season, a victory at Cincinnati, the offensive line became a strength instead of a question mark.
Now Snyder, a versatile player who played every position on the offensive line at some point in his seven seasons for San Francisco, is gone, having signed a five-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals
Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, in a story posted Wednesday night, says the 49ers have these options: take a guard with their first-round choice in April’s draft (the 30th overall), promote last year’s fifth-round pick Daniel Kilgore, re-sign Rachal (who also is a free agent) or go after another free agent such as longtime veteran Leonard Davis who was reported to have visited the Niners Wednesday.
Snyder made a huge impact for San Francisco last season, notes Mike Sando of ESPN.
Sando says the 49ers’ running game “perked up considerably” with Snyder at right guard, and stats provided by Sando show it clearly.
With Snyder instead of Rachal in the lineup, yards per carry (4.5 to 3.0), number of sacks per play (.08 to .13) and yards per passing attempt (7.2 to 6.4) were all better.
“I loved it there,” Snyder told the Arizona Republic. “But at this point in my career, I was ready for something else.”
Inman says Snyder not only played well for San Francisco last season, but became one of the leaders on the offensive line.
“He’s been awesome. He’s meant to much to the team, with his preparation and leadership,” 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari told Inman in a December interview.
If the 49ers decide to sign Davis, the former Cardinals and Cowboys lineman who is now 33, they’ll be hoping he can return to past Pro Bowl form after not playing in 2011 while signed at midseason with the Detroit Lions.
Also an option might be former Oakland Raider Robert Gallery, recently released by Seattle.
Kilgore, a 6-foot-3, 308-pounder from Appalachian State, saw little playing action last season.