With just minutes before the NFL’s opt out deadline on Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers saw their second player forego the 2020 season.
Reported first by NFL reporter Tom Pelissero, San Francisco offensive lineman Shon Coleman will not be joining the 49ers for the 2020 season.
According to several members in the 49ers’ media, a major reason for Coleman’s absence is likely due to the fact that he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 18, during the period in which he was leaving Olive Branch High School in Mississippi for college, in which he played for Auburn.
After coming out of Mississippi as a relatively well-touted prospect, Coleman joined the Tigers for four years, including during the season in which Auburn made the 2014 National Championship, eventually losing to Florida State.
Coleman eventually left southern Alabama for the 2016 NFL Draft, where he was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns as the 76th overall pick.
Coleman saw seven appearances in his rookie year in Ohio, before taking on a much bigger role in 2017 as the team’s starting tackles, starting all 16 games of the 2017 NFL season.
However, that was the last time that Coleman earned a start or a notable appearance for an NFL team for either the Browns or the 49ers since coming to Santa Clara, California in August of 2018, when San Francisco traded a seventh-round pick to Cleveland for the tackle.
However, Coleman has maintained his roster spot as a backup and as a swing tackle, eventually being offered a one-year extension back in March of this year as the 49ers expected him to compete as the team’s lead swing tackle ahead of the 2020 season.
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Impact of Coleman’s Absence
The loss of the former Auburn Tiger is obviously not nearly as impacting as a hypothetical situation like Mike McGlinchey or Trent Williams opting out, but Coleman likely had a role to play in the 2020 NFL season, especially when you consider head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes.
The coach has a diverse playbook and personnel groups, but swinging tackle play is something important to Shanahan and all NFL teams in the current state of the NFL.
Coleman offered the athleticism to do that job well, but instead will force Shanahan and the 49ers staff to look elsewhere in an effort to solve the team’s situation in regards to a swing tackle.
Considering that Coleman has had to battle cancer while in college, this completely makes sense. When you factor in the fact that it came at the very last second, literal minutes before the NFL’s deadline, it shows that the player must’ve put serious thought into the situation.
Fortunately for Coleman, he won his battle against leukemia while in Auburn, but leukemia is also well-known for sprouting up again. With the risk of COVID-19 potentially adding more risk, it only makes sense for him to opt out and receive the high-risk payment clause of $350,000 in 2020.
As mentioned, it’s not a loss that will provide a major problem for San Francisco, but that kind of depth is something that the team will certainly miss.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.