Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at the offensive line.
Signed for 2014: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Adam Snyder, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney, Ryan Seymour, Al Netter, Carter Bykowski, Luke Marquardt
Pending free agents: Jonathan Goodwin
Outlook: Many mock drafts and offseason prognostications have the 49ers acquiring a center -- often in the first or second round -- because Goodwin, 35, is not expected back. The 49ers, however, absolutely teem with heretofore underutilized young players on the offensive line, including former draft picks Kilgore and Looney. Kilgore has been filling in at times for Goodwin - in training camp, in preseason games, in garbage time - for the last two seasons, and my sense is that he will step into the starting center position in 2014.
Looney, meanwhile, was a virtual unknown heading into the 2013 season but had to step in at right guard due to injuries on Dec. 1 against the Rams. He played well in his first-ever extended regular-season action. He also has received repetitions at center since being drafted in 2012, and the future scenario could have Kilgore starting at center with Looney the backup at center or guard. In addition, Snyder has experience at center while Seymour, a 2013 draft pick the 49ers signed off the Seahawks' practice squad, played virtually every position along the line at Vanderbilt.
The 49ers typically dress seven offensive lineman on game days. One of the extras needs to be able to play guard and center; the other must be able to play both tackle spots. In 2013, those jobs belonged to Kilgore and Snyder. The latter can play all five offensive line spots, which makes him valuable to the team. Still, the 49ers will try to develop one of their young tackles - Bykowski and Marquardt - to be their swing tackle of the future. Snyder is signed through 2014.
Youth Watch: My goodness, Marquardt is a striking figure. If I were filming a Viking battle scene, he'd be the first guy off the gangway when the invaders' ship arrives at the beach. He's 6-8, 315 pounds with nary an ounce of fat. The question, of course, is whether he just looks tough. Marquardt played at little-known Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, but a foot injury washed out his senior season and he went undrafted in April. He had a follow-up surgery on the foot that month and was merely an observer during the 49ers offseason sessions. He was cleared to practice for three weeks in November but will have the benefit of a full offseason this year. He won't be hard to pick out during OTAs and will be intriguing to watch.
Money watch: After Davis received a five-year contract extension last offseason, his draft classmate, Iupati, is in line to receive one this offseason. Iupati battled shoulder and knee injuries in 2013 and was knocked out of the championship game with a broken fibula. It was the roughest of his four seasons with the 49ers. When Iupati is healthy, however, he is one of the top guards in the game. The question is whether he believes his value will be higher at this time next season.
Bottom line: The 49ers have perhaps the deepest offensive line in the NFL, and it's very difficult to see them spending money on a free agent or using a top draft pick anywhere along the line. Instead, they likely will ask the players who have been apprenticing in recent years to step into larger roles.
-- Matt Barrows