49ers release Mike Person, sign Tom Compton leaving right guard in question

49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers have officially released offensive guard Mike Person and signed free-agent Tom Compton, leaving the right guard position in question.

The San Francisco 49ers waited a few days to make their first free-agent addition of the offseason, but they finally did so on Thursday signing veteran guard Tom Compton to a one-year, $3 million deal.

In a corresponding move, the team informed fellow guard Mike Person of his release freeing up $2.5 million in cap space. Person has spent the past two seasons as San Francisco’s starting right guard after coming over from Indianapolis in 2018.

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In those two years, Person has established himself as a dependable, albeit un-exciting starter on the 49ers’ offensive line. The former Atlanta Falcons lineman excelled early in his Niners career, but tailed off in the second half of 2018.

He would finish with a respectable 67.2 Pro Football Focus grade serving as likely the team’s best interior lineman. 2019 wouldn’t be as kind to him as Person dropped down to a below-average 61.8 PFF grade while others around him made significant strides.

Going into the offseason, there were rumors that the 49ers could look to cut Person to save a little bit of cap space. But even though they’ve gone ahead and done just that, it doesn’t seem as though it was a cost-cutting decision.

Compton was signed to a $3 million deal which would make his 2020 salary higher than Person’s. And on the surface, this move doesn’t make a ton of sense.

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While playing with the New York Jets last season, Compton made five starts at right guard earning an abysmal PFF grade of 49.7. The 30-year-old has played for a different team in each of the last five years and will likely make it six straight this season.

His play was worse than Person’s, his cap hit will be higher, and he doesn’t have the same chemistry with the current offensive line. What’s the thinking behind this move?

For starters, Compton has experience playing in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system from their time together in Atlanta back in 2016. And Compton may actually be a better fit for the team than Person.

The South Dakota product is leaner and more athletic than his recently-released position-mate which is something that Shanahan values among his offensive linemen. Person is a meaner road-grader, but Compton can pull and get out into the second level more effectively than Person can.

That could explain the switch, but the level of play is concerning. Of course, the 49ers could still address the position with one of their two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.

It’s very likely we see a combination of wide receiver and interior offensive line taken in the first round come April. And if that’s the case, Shanahan clearly sees Compton as a better backup option.

It isn’t the most exciting change, but in an offseason where most of the roster will remain intact, the change at right guard might prove to be one of their most significant.

Next. 49ers offseason plan includes keeping 2019 roster intact. dark

Of course, aside from that DeForest Buckner guy.