OT Sims Returning To 49ers

For the second time in a month, the Washington Redskins, who always tend to be active this time of year, failed in their bid to sign a reserve 49ers tackle in free agency. However, while Tony Pashos found a new home in Cleveland, news has come today that Barry Sims, one of San Francisco's most valuable backups in 2009, is returning to the team with a one-year deal.

Going into training camp last year, Sims seemed to be at a crossroads in his career and wasn't even guaranteed to make the team. As the practices wore on though, not only did Sims prove he belonged but went on to play a lot more - and a lot better - than anyone anticipated in July of 2009.

Because of a knee injury that starting left tackle Joe Staley suffered at Indianapolis, Sims was pressed into duty and wound up starting seven games. To my admittedly untrained eye, he looked every bit Staley's equal as a pass blocker, and wasn't too much of a drop off in the running game either. He's wasn't quite athletic enough to mow down targets at the second level like Staley, but few tackles are.

Losing Sims and Pashos in the same year would've caused major concern for the Niners. The only experienced tackles on the roster would've been Staley and Adam Snyder, and the latter is barely adequate enough to play the right side and doesn't have the feet to handle the left. The team would've had no choice to be make a panic signing for some veteran or to rely on a rookie should Staley go down again.

Thankfully for 49ers fan, those concerns are now moot. Sims has reportedly signed for that could pay him $2.1M with incentives and will be in the red and gold for 2010. Not a bad deal for a 35-year old.

You might think that's a lot of money to spend on a guy who - ideally - might never see the field, but don't be so sure we've seen the last of Sims as a starter. Having him back on the club lessens the pressure on the team having to use a first round pick on a tackle and throwing him into the fire from day one.

Now, the Niners have the freedom to rely on their draft board (which, given the uncertainty these days about who will be making the decisions in the war room is a good thing), and to select the two best players with the 13th and 17th picks instead of reaching for some guy they might not be in love with or paying a king's ransom to trade up in the draft.

More importantly, even if they do pick a tackle in the first round, they'll force the young man to prove he's worthy of playing right away. Coach Mike Singletary you might have heard, is rather fond of competition. There will be no rookies with a sense of entitlement on this team.

Having Sims aboard makes sense for all those reasons and more. I don't like Snyder as a starter and wasn't thrilled with the prospect of him as a third tackle that much either. But I like him a lot as fourth tackle and he's versatile enough to play guard in a pinch as well. We may well see a training camp battle between Snyder and Tony Wragge for a roster spot behind starters David Baas and Chilo Rachal, and that's not even taking into account free agent Chester Pitts, whom the team has courted.

The 49ers realize that upgrading their offensive line is the biggest priority, and keeping Sims around was a step in the right direction.

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