It is no secret that Mike Singletary's 49ers are an in-your-face, pound the rock type of team, with their best offensive weapon being their stud tailback Frank Gore. However, Gore needed some extra room to run on the right side of the offensive line last year. The 49ers' right tackle position was like a game of musical chairs, with Tony Wragge, Adam Synder, and Barry Sims all spending time at the position.
With the four other offensive line positions set in stone for the upcoming season, the 49ers needed to find one more offensive tackle to complete the group. They did that yesterday by signing former Pro Bowl tackle Marvel Smith, formerly of the Steelers.
The 30-year-old tackle is listed as 6'5", 321 pounds, went to the Pro Bowl in 2004, and helped the Steelers win their fifth championship in Super Bowl XL against Seattle.
Smith is also a native of Oakland and his agent Ken Zuckerman said that playing professionally in the region he grew up in "has been his dream."
However, the 49ers signing a local, stout offensive tackle may seem too good to be true, and there are some down sides to Smith. The former Steeler played only five games last season with back and shoulder problems that have affected his performance. Yet, according to the 49ers, Smith performed well in his physical and looks healthy and ready to return to his Pro Bowl form.
Smith's signing will give the 49ers the ability to draft heavily on the defensive side of the ball, especially with their No. 10 overall pick. A ball hawking free safety or a pass rusher is the best bet with the first round pick.
Depending on whether or not Isaac Bruce retires and if the 49ers address WR more in free agency, the 49ers may draft a receiver at some point. But the majority of their picks should be addressing the defensive side of the ball.
The 49ers now have a complete offensive line with Pro Bowl caliber talent at each position. Barring moving tackle Joe Staley back to the right side and having Smith play left, the offensive line will look as follows:
Joe Staley LT, David Baas LG, Eric Heitman C, Chilo Rachal RG, Marvel Smith RT
For as much complaints about the 49ers' drafting abilities of late, three of the five starting lineman have been drafted since 2005. Baas was the second round pick the year, Alex Smith was the overall No. 1, Staley was drafted in 2007, and Rachal in 2008.
Combined, the offensive line weighs a collective 1,599 lbs, which averages out to about 320 pounds, plus an average height of 6'4-and-a-half inches.
Expect Frank Gore to put up numbers this season near or better than his 2006 production when he ran behind Larry Allen and the supposed to be right tackle Jonas Jennings, who was recently released from the team.
In 2006, Gore carried the ball 312 times for 1,695 yards, which comes out to a 5.4 yards per carry average, and eight touchdowns. With the current offensive line and the new offensive system that is actually going to center around No. 21 Frank Gore, it isn't far-fetched to think the 49ers tailback could go over 2,000 yards on the ground alone and reach double digit touchdowns for the first time in his career.
Smith's presence on the right side of the offense improves the 49ers' chances at the playoffs dramatically if he can stay healthy. Not only is he a force, but he will also be able to mentor RG Chilo Rachal on that right side of the 49ers line.
49er fans have been calling for some big-time noise in free agency, and the front office has finally delivered with a stud new tackle replacing what was formerly a revolving door at the righ tackle position.
And trust me 49er fans, you're no longer going to be yelling at No. 77 for those atrocious false start and holding penalties, you're going to be praising him for destroying defensive ends and paving the way for Frank Gore to spring to the next level.