Colin Kaepernick Alex Boone 3

The 49ers “dodged a bullet” over the weekend with Adam Snyder, who looked fairly gimpy throughout camp before the team traveled to Baltimore. They’re also watching the progress of Joe Looney, Jonathan Martin and others in the group to see just how bad the falloff would be if Alex Boone either stayed home or got traded to another team.

Boone is serious about his holdout, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reportedly interested in Boone.

The odds are stacked against Boone receiving the contract he wants from the 49ers. His stubbornness can’t be playing well in Santa Clara, the 49ers have multiple young offensive guard-types in Looney, Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas (Thomas won’t contribute this year, but would’ve been drafted pretty early if he didn’t undergo knee surgery), and there’s always Snyder and Martin.

However, Boone’s stance has some merit. It’s not just that he’s paid like a reserve guard, which is nowhere near commensurate with his talents at this stage of his career, but he’s an upper-tier guard who can also play tackle at a fairly high level. Granted, Boone has only been asked to play the glamour position (as far as the o-line is concerned) once twice as a 49er. But he did so surprisingly well against Robert Quinn and the St. Louis Rams after Joe Staley was lost to injury (and in 2011, when he played 58 snaps in the 49ers’ 21-19 loss to Arizona).

At the time he signed his contract, Boone was expected to be the line’s sixth man — a swing tackle who could fill in at every position besides center. The 49ers traded a conditional seventh round pick to the Dolphins for Martin, in hopes that he’d fill that same role. The 49ers only send that pick to Miami if Martin makes the 53-man roster.

If Martin got knocked on his keister in practice by guys like Quinton Dial because recovering from mono takes a long time (and I know this is possible from personal experience), then OK. However, while the 49ers can certainly make do with what they have and get a 2015 draft pick for Boone (my guess would be something in the fourth round range, considering the team that acquires Boone would in effect be agreeing to give him a substantial raise + extension), there’s little doubt the 2014 San Francisco 49ers would be weakened.

The 49ers have a decision to make, based on their answers to the following questions.

  • How much would the offense suffer with Looney at right guard?
  • Would Anthony Davis’ recovery from shoulder surgery and a new starting center magnify the loss of Boone?
  • Is Boone worth possibly weakening their chances of extending Michael Crabtree or Mike Iupati?
  • How much is Boone asking for? If he wants top-10 left tackle money, the 49ers might be stuck … unless another team needs a left tackle and really, really likes Boone’s potential at that position.

Along with the Bucs, the Giants, Bills and Colts have been mentioned as possible trade partners who could use extra help up front. As camp wears on, more offensive linemen will fall. Same goes for the regular season, if the situation drags that long (which seems unlikely, but anything is possible).

The 49ers currently have seven draft picks in 2015, plus two compensatory picks for losing Donte Whitner and Anthony Dixon in free agency, unless they cut Martin and keep that seventh-rounder mentioned earlier. Trent Baalke would probably love to have another pick he could use to trade up draft someone with a torn ACL they can stash for a year, but can an offense led by a highly-paid quarterback and a veteran running back afford a weaker offensive line this season? Along with the bullet-pointed queries above, that’s a question the 49ers will have to answer.