It has become increasingly clear the San Francisco 49ers want another formidable tight end target in their line up to complement All-Pro George Kittle. The 49ers were rumored to have tried to snag free agent Austin Hooper, who eventually signed with the Cleveland Browns, and they also have spoken to Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed this offseason.
Now, the team is rumored to be interested in another standout tight end.
With Ross Dwelley the current backup for Kittle, the Niners are absolutely going to address the tight end position, either via free agency or the draft.
Would TE Evan Engram Be a Good Fit in Kyle Shanahan’s Offense?
The 49ers are a run-first offense, and for good reason. They were the league’s second-best running team in the NFL last year, averaging 144.1 yards a game on the ground. They also averaged 237 yards per game through the air, and that could be improved upon. Kyle Shanahan is notorious for scheming his receivers open, and adding a speedster like Engram to a mix that already includes Kittle and second-year talent Deebo Samuel seems like a promising idea.
Engram isn’t half the blocker Kittle is, but he’s a solid route runner with excellent vertical speed, and he’s an immediate threat in the passing game when he’s on the field. Shanahan may not like him for some run packages, but his speed and good hands leave him an intriguing possibility for this 49ers offense, especially if the 49ers add another wideout in the draft.
Evan Engram Injury History & Contract: Would He Be Worth the Risk?
Engram’s only major red flag is his injury history. In 2019, a foot injury landed him on the injured reserve list, and he also missed five games in 2018 due to and hamstring issues. The Giants drafted him 23rd overall in the first round of the draft in 2017, and he played in 15 games a rookie, starting 11. That year, he looked like one of the league’s most promising young talents, catching 64 passes for 722 yards and six scores. He has played in 19 games in the two seasons since, starting 14, catching 89 passes for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns in limited time.
Engram is due just under $2 million in 2020, per Spotrac, and despite only having around $9.4 million to work with salary cap-wise once the draft is over, the 49ers could absolutely afford to pick up his contract, especially if he’s healthy and in good physical form. The 49ers have also been rumored to be interested in former Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton, but Burton’s injury history doesn’t inspire much more confidence than Engram’s does. Given the choice between Burton and Engram, Engram is the more proven performer, despite his injuries. Burton isn’t known for his blocking, either, and a Kittle-Engram combo seems more terrifying.
Again, everything depends on Engram’s health. If he’s anywhere near the form he had as a rookie in 2017, San Francisco should take a shot.