But this one would’ve added to one of the deepest units on the 49ers had it happened — plus would have given S.F. a prospect once on a wealthy $11 million rookie deal and once lauded for his “first class traits and dominant potential” the moment he entered the league in 2019.
49ers Among Teams That Placed Claimed on Ex-1st Rounder: Report
The Bolts made the decision to waive Tillery on the eve of their game against the 49ers, preventing the towering 6-foot-6, 295-pounder from potentially crossing paths with Trent Williams or Mike McGlinchey. The move to release Tillery ended his four-year, $11,422,158 contract he once signed as an entry level rookie deal per Spotrac. Tillery got claimed by the 49ers’ January 1 opponent on Monday afternoon.
However, it turns out the 49ers came close to adding Tillery per ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter.
“Eight teams — Las Vegas, Detroit, Carolina, Indianapolis, San Francisco, New York Jets, New York Giants, and Kansas City — put in waiver claims for former Chargers’ first-round pick Jerry Tillery, who was assigned to the Raiders,” Schefter reported.
Allow that to marinate, 49er fans. Tillery, had he been claimed by the Niners, would’ve been new teammates with fellow 2019 draft mates Nick Bosa (the No. 2 overall pick of that class) and second rounder Deebo Samuel. He also would’ve rejoined a fellow past Norte Dame star on the 49ers in former college teammate Aaron Banks.
Matt Barrows from The Athletic points to this likely reason as to why the 49ers put the claim in:
Tillery was once lauded for his mix of power and having a skyscraper frame by nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein.
“Tillery is a projection-based prospect with first-class traits and dominant potential,” was the first sentence Zierlein wrote in his overview. He added how Tillery was “still searching for more consistency from game to game.” But, one more trait Zierlein described out of Tillery was how he had “scary natural power for such a long frame and has potential to get bigger and stronger.”
Tillery made tremendous use of his blend of size, power and tenacity during his final campaign with the Fighting Irish in 2018:
Tillery’s NFL Career Hasn’t Lived up to Expectations
While Tillery has shown flashes in 54 games with 29 starts, he never showed his potential the Chargers drafted him for.
Tillery was limited to three starts despite playing in 15 games his rookie season. He tallied just 17 tackles with 9 solo stops and produced 2 sacks. His numbers and stats did witness growth his sophomore NFL season — elevating his totals to 30 tackles, 19 solo stops, 3 sacks plus also delivered two pass deflections and forced two fumbles. And he accomplished those numbers playing in 16 games and being inserted into the starting lineup in 11 games.
Last season was his best statistical year across the board — producing 51 tackles, 24 solo stops, 6 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks in 16 games with 15 starts.
Tillery, however, was looking like the odd man out in the Charger defensive line that features Joey Bosa, Sebastian Joseph-Day and has Khalil Mack lining up close to the line of scrimmage. Tillery didn’t start in a single game this season and was widely criticized by fans and NFL media for his lack of run support. Tillery left the Chargers with snatching just 8 tackles, 5 solo stops and one sack.
But the 49ers were in the mix to claim him via waivers. Had he joined, he not only would’ve lined up alongside Bosa and prized rookie Drake Jackson, he would’ve also added more length to a 49ers defense with no shortage of that through the 6-foot-7 Arik Armstead and the 6-foot-5 emerging trench defender Charles Omenihu.