The 49ers eventually have to make a decision on right tackle Mike McGlinchey’s long-term fit, but using a fifth-year option on him wouldn’t make sense.
The San Francisco 49ers have until May 3 to Stitched San Francisco 49ers Jerseys decide whether or not they want to exercise their fifth-year option on their first-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Both the quick-take reaction and the deeper-look reaction should say the same thing: no.
There are a number of reasons why the Niners have little need to apply the fifth-year option presented to former first-round picks. And while there are a lot of other factors at play here, namely what San Francisco does with one of its high-profile pending free agents, left tackle Trent Williams, placing that option on McGlinchey’s contract doesn’t exactly fill a need.
For starters, there’s the known evidence. As Niners Nation’s Kyle Posey pointed out, a would-be fifth-year option on McGlinchey would cost the 49ers nearly $10.9 million in 2022, and that number would be fully guaranteed. If the Niners were to exercise the option, McGlinchey would subsequently become the sixth highest-paid right tackle in the NFL, according to Over the Cap.
He’s certainly not the sixth-best right tackle in the league right now, so the actual value itself isn’t there.
Then there’s the interpretable evidence. San Francisco knew McGlinchey was far better a run-blocker than a pass-protector, and 2020 was more than enough to suggest this. While it’s far from a perfect evaluatory system, Pro Football Focus‘ breakdown of McGlinchey’s grades in each category — 91.3 in run blocking against 58.3 in pass protection — suggests this.
The fanbase seems awfully divided on McGlinchey, and that’s fine. It’s OK to say he could use some serious improvement in pass protection while remaining confident in him being one of the team’s better run-blockers.
But do the 49ers commit to him with that fifth-year option?
Not when there are other options available.
49ers have other better options with Mike McGlinchey
Declining a fifth-year option doesn’t automatically mean the Niners let him hit free agency in 2022. Remember, San Francisco declined the same option on left guard Laken Tomlinson after they acquired the former first-round pick from the Detroit Lions back in 2017, only then electing to offer up an extension for Tomlinson instead.
The 49ers could do the same here, as Posey pointed out, extending McGlinchey before the May 3 deadline. This would save $1.7 million in cap space this year, according to OTC, while also getting ahead of likely pay increases for starting tackles once the NFL salary cap bounces back upwards in 2022.
Yet the Niners don’t even have to commit to McGlinchey with an extension if they don’t want to.
The 2021 NFL Draft is tremendously deep with offensive line talent, including a number of high-quality and starting-caliber tackles to be found within the first four rounds. Now with 10 picks in the draft, San Francisco is likely to grab at least one tackle at some point, perhaps as early as No. 12 overall (largely contingent on Williams’ future) or perhaps a solid backup for 2021 with the high-end ceiling of potentially emerging as a starter.
By declining McGlinchey’s option, the 49ers could still give themselves the flexibility to take a “wait and see” approach with the right tackle’s long-term future without having to offer guaranteed money in 2022. Should a rookie end up being just as good a fit on the cheap, the financial aspects would make a lot more sense.
So as the days count down between now and when the Niners have to decide on McGlinchey’s fifth-year option, one should figure the team explores contingency options instead.