Do the San Francisco 49ers have the most complete roster heading into the 2022 season? Or are there still holes at various spots?
There are those analysts like 49ers Webzone who believe the ‘Niners are stacked heading into training camp. Then there are others like Kevin Patra of nfl.com who believe the 49ers still have “instability at center” entering the upcoming campaign.
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Lastly, there’s one other analyst who believes a versatile former first rounder who was once signed to a $30 million deal can provide some late help to the 49er offense since he’s still searching for an NFL home.
Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report compiled his listings of “the best unsigned players under 30” on Friday, June 24 and listed the ‘Niners as one of the “best fits” for this former ninth overall pick who last played for the Washington Commanders.
Free Agent Can Add Guard Help, but Has Also Played Tackle
Ereck Flowers, once taken by the New York Giants in the Top 10 of the 2015 NFL Draft, has been tabbed as a possibility for the 49ers.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Miami native, who starred collegiately at the University of Miami, was once awarded a three-year, $30 million deal with his hometown NFL team the Dolphins. However, he eventually found his way to the nation’s capitol. Per Spotrac, Flowers had a base salary of $9,975,000 crossed off by Washington. He remains unsigned with camps set to begin in a month.
Wharton said that while Flowers was never a fit at tackle, he ultimately breathed new life into his career off a position switch.
“Former New York Giants first-round pick Ereck Flowers was never cut out to be a tackle, but the seven-year pro has been a solid guard since switching positions in 2019,” Wharton said. “He has good quickness for a 330-pounder, but putting him in the phone booth that is the left guard spot limited his exposure to speedy, more flexible edge-rushers.
“He had two successful one-year stints in Washington sandwiched around one year in Miami,” Wharton continued. “Both franchises allowed Flowers to depart because of financial reasons but got worse at the position after doing so.”
Examining the 49ers’ Trenches & Flowers’ Value
As mentioned by Patra, the 49ers have a glaring question mark at center with Alex Mack‘s retirement, which causes the ‘Niners to lose a 2021 Pro Bowler. The center spot will be one of the more scrutinized position battles once training camp returns by fans and Bay Area media.
But there’s another position that is in question along the offensive line. And it’s the spot that another Pro Bowler vacated in March: Laken Tomlinson, who signed with the New York Jets. And that’s where Wharton believes Flowers could come in as a fit for a guard-needy team like the 49ers.
“Plenty of left guard openings exist throughout the league that Flowers could upgrade,” Wharton said. “This is especially the case if he’s placed between quality starters at left tackle and center, since both positions can assist him in pass protection.”
One signing sales pitch from Wharton regarding Flowers: How his switch from tackle led to his durability on the field.
“The position change has also helped Flowers stay durable. He’s averaged 952 snaps over the last three years compared to 902 in the previous four. He turned just 28 this offseason, so Flowers’ long-term durability isn’t quite a concern, but there’s potential for him to go from a one-year signing to more of a consistent presence,” Wharton said.
Per Pro Football Reference, Flowers has started between 14 to 16 games since 2019 — so he has that healthy omen going heading into whatever his next team is.
But if the 49ers do take in Flowers, offensive line coach Chris Foerster would have to emphasize improving his pass blocking. While he received five grades of 80 or higher in pass blocking, Flowers surrendered six sacks last season per Pro Football Focus — including two in the season finale versus his former team the Giants.
He would add some height and girth to a line that already has the massive Aaron Banks (6-foot-5, 325-pounds) and Trent Williams (6-foot-5, 318-pounds) occupying the blind side. But Flowers’ name is tabbed as a fit should the 49ers make one last trench addition.