49ers Sign 10-Year Veteran Starter Who Overcame ‘Trials & Tribulations’

49ers new OL Chris Hubbard

Getty 49ers new OL Chris Hubbard

There are not all that many big areas of need ahead of the 49ers opening training camp in July. But one that will be worth monitoring is the offensive line, which improved over the course of last season but is still not quite up to the level of the rest of the 49ers offense. This week, the team added depth to the unit, bringing in 33-year-old veteran Chris Hubbard, who has played 10 seasons in the NFL with three different organizations.

Hubbard signed a one-year deal, as reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media added that the deal is worth $1.375 million. Fowler termed Hubbard a “swing option,” writing on Twitter/X:

“Source: The #49ers are signing veteran offensive lineman Chris Hubbard. Hubbard started nine games for Tennessee last season before going to IR. Healthy now. Gives San Francisco a viable swing option.”

Hubbard had gone onto the IR last season with an arm injury after having earned the starting right tackle job in training camp.

Chris Hubbard Has Been a Veteran Mentor

Though Fowler tabs him as a swing option, there is a chance that Hubbard could do the same this year in San Francisco as he did last year in Tennessee, because the oft-criticized Colton McKivitz manned the right tackle position last year. Before his injury, Hubbard rated a Pro Football Focus grade of 69.0, which was 34th out of 81 tackles. McKivitz rated a 65.2, which was 47th in the NFL.

No organization lives and dies by PFF ratings, of course, and despite some hiccups, McKivitz certainly  improved over the course of the season in 2023. But as a unit, the 49ers offensive line rated just 24th in pass blocking last year, and McKivitz was part of that. They did rate No. 1 in the NFL in run blocking, and McKivitz should get credit there—he was a better run-blocker than pass protector.

Hubbard was praised last year for his professionalism by Titans coach Mike Vrabel. He also talked openly of dealing with mental health issues in the wake of the five-year, $36.5 million contract he signed in Cleveland in 2018. He’s been a mentor for young players in similar situations since.

“A lot of trials and tribulation, man,” Hubbard told ESPN.com. “It took me probably like two years after all that stuff happened, I started to seek therapy and everything, and I started to feel like myself again.”

49ers Waited Until Round 3 for an Offensive Lineman

There was plenty of speculation heading into Day 1 of the NFL draft that the 49ers would use their first-round pick to select one of the deep pool of offensive tackles available, given the uncertainty of McKivitz manning the tackle spot on the right side and the age of star left tackle Trent Williams, who is entering his 15th season in the NFL and turns 36 just ahead of the start of training camp.

But the politics of the wide-receiver position, where the 49ers were seeking to gain leverage in potential trades and deals for Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk pushed the team to draft Florida’s Ricky Pearsall instead, passing on the notion of trading up to pick a long-term option at the position.

The 49ers also missed out on the likes of Patrick Paul, Kingsley Suamataia, Roger Rosegarten and Blake Fisher, who were all drafted in the second round. They traded up in the third round to draft Kansas’ Dominick Puni, who could compete for time at guard this season. They also picked guard Jarrett Kingston in the sixth round.

“We looked at numerous guys throughout the process,” 49ers GM John Lynch said about not drafting an offensive tackle (via SI.com). “I think when you’re drafting 31st, it’s oftentimes hard to find a tackle that you really love. And we like our tackles as they stand right now. We like our depth with [OL] Jaylon Moore being a really talented guy who can play the swing role.

“Drafted [OL Jarrett] Kingston, who has some flex at tackle. We’ll continue to always try to improve ourselves and improve the depth of our team. But we’re excited about our O-Line group. I know a lot of people talk about that, but we feel pretty good about our group.”

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