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Vance McDonald signing shows the San Francisco 49ers don’t get it


December 10, 2016

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On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers announced that they had signed former second-round pick Vance McDonald to a five-year, $35 million ($16 million fully guaranteed) contract. At least, that’s how they’ll spin it. If you cut through the B.S., the 49ers and General Manager Trent Baalke is committed to doubling-down on this terrible roster he’s created by re-signing one of the biggest busts on said roster.

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McDonald’s greatest strength is his run blocking, which is fine for a second tight end, not one you spent a second-round pick on and then re-invested capital in with a second contract. He runs good routes, but he has trouble making contested catches, so he struggles with man coverage. He also drops easy passes on a frequent basis. His drop rate (8.9% in 2016) sits between Seth Roberts and Derrick Henry, a third wide receiver and a running back, respectively. What I neglected to mention that it is the lowest drop rate of his career (13% last year, around 20% overall). He has bad hands, and even drastically improving them still makes him have sub-par hands. And now he is the 49ers’ starting tight end of the future.

The 49ers ultimately re-invested in a pass-catching tight end that can’t catch passes. Sure, he checks all the other boxes, but the 49ers are paying him like a top tight end. In fact, his $16 million guaranteed ties Dennis Pitta for the most “guaranteed at signing” (fully guaranteed) money in the NFL. He currently has a career high in yards and touchdowns, and he is one behind his career high in targets, and on pace to break his catches career high. He’s on pace for a scorching 38 catch, 625 yard, six TD season with a fluky long score in there to boost his numbers. Without his long bomb in Carolina, he is on pace for about 500 yards and 5 scores.

And the 49ers made their pass catcher who can’t pass the third-highest fully guaranteed tight end in the entire NFL. Trent Baalke showed his hand, that he thinks this roster is a tweak or two away from contending. The 49ers need to tear it all down and start over, not overspend on disappointing pieces already on the roster. Re-upping McDonald shows that Baalke just doesn’t get that he has constructed the worst roster in the NFL, since he is making sure mediocre options stick around for premium money. It’s a mess and yet another reason why Trent Baalke is the worst GM in the NFL. He’s constructed a terrible, rudderless roster full of his own draft picks that he is too stubborn to accept they are busts, and now he is re-signing them to good money deals.

The good news is at least he figured out how to use the $40 million in cap space the 49ers’ have.

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