Kyle Shanahan Considered Jon Feliciano a ‘Priority’ in Free Agency: Report

San Francisco 49ers, Jon Feliciano

Getty Future San Francisco 49ers lineman Jon Feliciano preparing to snap a ball for the New York Giants.

Heading into free agency, the San Francisco 49ers weren’t a team flush with cap space. Still, that didn’t stop John Lynch and the rest of the front office from making multiple deals early in the process, including signing Jon Feliciano to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.

Discussing the decision to sign Feliciano right out of the gates just before the draft, Kyle Shanahan called Feliciano a “priority,” especially after losing Daniel Brunskill to the Tennessee Titans.

“Jon is a guy who has started a lot of games here in the last few years,” Lynch said via David Lombardi of The Athletic. “I think he gives us tremendous versatility at guard and center. Around the league, it’s kind of known he’s one of those glue guys, one of those guys you want in your room. He became a priority for us in free agency. I felt very fortunate that we were able to come out of free agency with Jon a part of our team, especially once we lost Danny.”

A 15-game starter at center for the New York Giants 2022, Feliciano’s decision to leave Big Blue for San Francisco did draw some pretty heated reactions from fans in the tri-state area, especially since the 49ers didn’t have an opening on the interior of their offensive line. According to Shanahan, however, that might not necessarily be the case, as Feliciano will be an active combatant during training camp.

Jon Feliciano May Start for the San Francisco 49ers

Though the Niners don’t have an opening at any of the positions Feliciano has routinely played as a pro, with Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, and Spencer Burford all returning in 2023, that doesn’t mean he’ll simply be relegated to a backup role.

In the opinion of Shanahan, Feliciano will be in the mix to compete for playing time this fall, especially at right guard versus Burford.

“I thought Spencer acquitted himself really well (in 2022),” Lynch said. “He’s a really talented young man, and I think it’s only going to get better. And it’s always great to have competition and know you have someone there that if something were to happen at either spot — all three really — you’ve got a guy who’s battle-tested, who has done it. Jon was really a nice addition for us.”

In 2022, Burford appeared in 16 games but was only on the field for 745 snaps, or 73 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps, as he split snaps with Brunskill down the stretch. Whether San Francisco opts to deploy a platoon next to Brendel once more this fall or the former Giant beats out the second-year UTSA production full-spot, Shanahan’s assertion that Feliciano was a priority may prove prophetic.

Kyle Shanahan Explains What Makes NFL Offensive Linemen “Different”

Discussing what it takes to play offensive line in the NFL, Shanahan noted that, unlike wide receiver or running back, offensive linemen have to play the entire game, and, thus, need to be more steady than spectacular.

“Receivers, running backs, and D-linemen, you’re rotating,” Shanahan said. “You can put guys that just have a certain skill set, put them in that situation and that situation only. An O-lineman, you’re out there 70 plays. That’s why the guy with the best highlight tape is not the guy that you go get. If it’s the highlight tape and the whole game, yes, but an O-lineman is different. You’ve got to be built to last. You don’t have to be flashy. You’ve got to make sure you can survive that game and not be the reason that we lost.”

Outside of Trent Williams, who is widely considered the best offensive tackle in the NFL right now, the 49ers have built their offensive line around players who aren’t flashy but get their job done. Regardless of what role Feliciano plays in 2023, it’s safe to say he will fit right in with that ethos, as Shanahan called him a great “glue guy” for a reason.

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