Pete Carroll and John Schneider are off to Indianapolis this week in order to evaluate the combine participants on their worthiness for inclusion in the club of greatness known as the Seattle Seahawks after having not made a single roster move since early January. However, one former Seahawk made news yesterday when the San Francisco 49ers announced that offensive tackle Garry Gilliam has been signed to a two year extension, putting him under contract through 2019.
Gilliam was a two year starter at right tackle for the Seahawks, but garnered limited interest on the free agent market in 2017 as a restricted free agent. After being tendered at the original round level as a RFA, Gilliam signed a one year contract with the 49ers that ended up paying him $2.1625M. He certainly didn’t waste any time this offseason before signing a much larger contract.
Interestingly, that contract for Gilliam is more money than the entire offensive line for the Seahawks made in 2016, a unit of which Gilliam was a member. While some might question the salary numbers of this extension, they are in line with what an experienced backup of Gilliam’s age could command in free agency as an experienced backup. The more questionable item would be the fact that the Niners signed this contract coming off a knee injury that ended his season early. This may indicate that his knee is fully recovered, and the Niners expect him to continue to contribute as a swing tackle and potential spot starter going forward.
However, the extension does come as a bit of a surprise following how little Gilliam played in 2017. Gilliam played just 38 offensive and 26 special teams snaps over the first nine weeks of the season before a knee injury landed him on injured reserve in late October. For a point of reference, Seahawks rookie offensive lineman Jordan Roos played 48 offensive snaps and 50 special teams snaps during 2017.
To my knowledge the specifics of Gilliam’s 2017 knee injury have not been released beyond the generic description as a “knee injury”. Gilliam did have his left knee fully rebuilt while in college after suffering a devastating injury, but that was eons ago in football time. Based on the fact that the Niners extended him just four months after the injury that ended his 2017 season, it appears likely this most recent injury was nowhere near as serious. In addition, the signing of Gilliam may be an indication that the 49ers are hedging on their expected starters at tackle for the team this coming season. The incumbent starter at right tackle, Trent Brown, is coming off shoulder surgery, and six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley will turn 34 in August before the season starts.
Thus, while the decision to give $4M guaranteed to a player coming off a knee injury could be considered questionable, if this extension is any indication of what to expect in the free agent market for offensive linemen in a couple of weeks, free agency could be an even wilder ride this year.
In any case, a big congratulations is in order to Gilliam, as the contract represents a payday that has been a long time in the making. If he is able to win and hold a starting role for the Niners during this contract, it would set him up to be a free agent once again after the 2019 season, when he will be 29 and poised to potentially capitalize even greater on the lack of quality offensive linemen across the NFL.