The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Their starting right guard, Alex Boone, wants to get paid like it too. Outside of whoever their starting center is (Daniel Kilgore or Marcus Martin), Boone is paid the least out of all the guys on the offensive line. He has already decided to skip the 49ers’ OTAs, but if he should hold out when minicamps start in June, should the 49ers cave in and pay Boone more money?
Boone had an impressive college career at Ohio State University but had some character concerns. Because of this he went undrafted in 2009 and was signed by the 49ers. In 2011 he signed a four-year extension and has two more years on that deal. Before the 2012 season, he switched positions from tackle to guard and didn’t miss a beat. Actually, he excelled at his new position in 2012.
According the Pro Football Focus, he ranked as the third best guard in the entire league with a plus-22.9. 2013 wasn’t the same story. In 2013 he was 40th out of all guards with a minus-2.1 rating. That is a substantial drop off. What could be the reason for such a drop off? Whatever the reason may be, the 49ers may not be willing to give him more money until he can prove that 2013 was just an aberration — especially when he still has two more years left on his current contract.
The 49ers also may not be in a position to give Boone more money. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is due for a huge extension soon, their other guard Mike Iupati is due for an extension after this season, wide receiver Michael Crabtree as well and outside linebacker Aldon Smith is due after next season. The 49ers can’t afford to pay all those players what they deserve, and even if Boone doesn’t get more money, not all of those players will be back next season.
Boone doesn’t have much bargaining power either. Between his less than stellar 2013 campaign and the other viable options the 49ers have, there isn’t much he can bring to the table. If Boone decides to hold out and miss any part of the season, Martin will be able to start at center with Kilgore playing his natural position at guard. They would also have Adam Snyder (who had a better PFF rating than Boone in 2013 anyway) as a backup should anyone go down with an injury.
If Boone decides to make this a big issue and the 49ers don’t feel he deserves more money, they could also trade him and free up money to keep someone like Iupati. Even if they don’t bring Iupati back, they have rookie Brandon Thomas who will be coming back off of injury next season.
In this situation, like almost all similar situations, the team holds all the bargaining power. Boone is a mountain of a man and has shown how good he is, but I don’t think this is a battle he should engage in. When one of the best left tackles in the league in Joe Staley is on your team and only making $2.7 million when you’re scheduled to earn $2 million, it’s hard to argue that you should be getting more money. I don’t think the 49ers should pay Boone, and I certainly don’t think he should be asking for more money after the season he just had. I fully expect this to get resolved by the time minicamps start in June. This organization usually finds ways to take care of their players.