Boone lacks leverage in his holdout

This is my Thursday column on Alex Boone.

SANTA CLARA – Alex Boone is making a big mistake.

Boone is the only 49er holding out of training camp. The 27-year-old guard wants a new contract. You can understand why.

He signed his current deal at the end of the 2011 season when he was a backup tackle. The 49ers gave him a four-year contract and $1.7 million guaranteed. Then in 2012, the 49ers made Boone the starting right guard after the previous right guard, Adam Snyder, signed with the Arizona Cardinals during the offseason.

And Boone was great, much better than Snyder had been in 2011. Pro Football Focus ranked Boone the third-best guard in the NFL in 2012, Boone’s first full season starting in the NFL. He was 25 years old, an up-and-comer. But he earned just $540,000 in base salary that season. The guard who Pro Football Focus ranked second-best in 2012 was Marshal Yanda, and he earns an average of $6.4 million annually.

Boone is a terrific run blocker, better than Yanda. Boone plays tackle, too. That’s part of his value. If Joe Staley ever gets injured, Boone takes his place at left tackle, the most important position on the offensive line.

Staley missed most of Week 13 against the Rams last season. Boone played left tackle and faced the Rams’ top pass rusher, Robert Quinn, who finished the year with 19 sacks. Boone didn’t give up any that day.

Boone deserves a raise more than anyone on the 49ers, more than Vernon Davis, who also wants a new contract. Davis is the fourth-highest paid tight end in the NFL. His average base salary is more than $7 million per year. He has earned more than $60 million during his professional career.

But Davis has leverage and Boone doesn’t. The 49ers cannot replace Davis. He’s a key blocker in the running game, and his speed stretches opposing defenses and creates space for Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin to get open underneath in the passing game.

Davis is a Pro Bowl player, a franchise player, possibly a future Hall of Famer, and he did not want to try to face down the 49ers in an acrimonious holdout.

Boone is not a bad guy. It would be wonderful if things worked out for him and the 49ers renegotiated his deal. You always pull for the underpaid guy. But he and his agent are reading the 49ers all wrong. If Davis couldn’t face down the 49ers, Boone has no chance.

Boone is not a franchise player, not a star player. He is a guard. Guards are replaceable. As good as Boone is, the 49ers wouldn’t lose much without him. The 49ers did fine without Boone in 2011. Snyder was the right guard, the 49ers won 13 games and the rushing attack ranked eighth in the NFL.

Snyder is back – he re-signed with the 49ers in 2013. And he improved last season, especially as a run blocker. He played 424 snaps and held his own.

Boone regressed last season, especially as a pass protector, and overall was not much better than Snyder. Pro Football Focus ranked Boone as the 39th-best guard in the NFL, and they ranked Snyder No.40.

You can bet the 49ers have plenty of backup plans if Boone continues to holdout. Snyder is one. Joe Looney is another. The 49ers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

And there is Jonathan Martin, whom the 49ers signed this offseason. He’s former second-round pick and he’s a tackle. Boone was a tackle before the 49ers moved him to guard. Martin is talented enough to make the transition, too.

Boone’s situation will get worse every day he holds out. A lineman needs camp. A lineman needs contact. A lineman needs pass protection drills. A lineman needs the weight room and a conditioning program. Why would the 49ers capitulate to a guard who isn’t in football shape?

Maybe the 49ers would trade Boone. Maybe another team would want him long-term and would trade the 49ers a fourth-round pick for him and renegotiate his contract. Maybe.

But the odds of that happening decrease as Boone holds out. Teams can’t count on Boone to play well this season if he doesn’t attend training camp. Boone does not have an extensive track record of success. He has had one dominant season and one decent season and that’s it. He needs all the practice he can get.

He needs to get his butt in camp. That’s his best move. That’s his only move.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

, , , ,
  1. Grant tries to turn the tide. Davis doesn’t have leverage. He caved. And he’s not a Hall of Famer at all. He’s just a very good TE.

  2. Grant, pretty good article. You might be over-relying on PFF’s grades in making the case for Boone overvaluing himself, but that said, I think you’re generally right about him and his agent overplaying their hand. Baalke has set the roster up with depth and options on the OL. Boone is only hurting his own development. On the other hand, maybe Boone’s agents put feelers out there to find out what other teams would pay him and what they’d be willing to extend in trade compensation to pry him away from SF? Maybe Boone’s end game is to leverage that trade immediately to get paid?

    Do you think a trade is most likely, and if so, what is the best we can expect to get for him?

    1. Adusoron The 9ers love to stock pile extra picks so they can red shirt some picks. They don’t have a ton of extra picks early in the 2015 draft I think they could pick up 2 extra picks for Boone maybe a 3rd and 4th rd picks

      1. If they don’t get a good trade offer before the season starts, maybe the 49ere could wait until a another team becomes desperate for an OT.

  3. Many teams would put Boone at tackle. A typical signing bonus for a decent OT would be more then Boone’s combined salary over the next two years… let alone the full salary.

    From a purely risk/reward viewpoint it makes sense for Boone to holdout. Its almost like a talented college player declaring for the draft early.

    This doesn’t mean the holdout is a sound idea, but it does highlight a possible reason why he might want to skip a season… or even two. I’m hoping Boone shows up, but I’m not optimistic. His agent seems to be the culprit.

  4. Grant, this is a good article, but Boone is more than a guard. He has shown he can be a serviceable backup tackle, better than Snyder and J. Martin, and that’s important to the FO. If he leaves, who can they trust in place of Staley or A. Davis? Right now the answer is no one. So I think both sides have a problem, and I don’t think there will be a meeting of the minds because I don’t think the Niners will pay Boone what he seems to think he is worth. I think a trade is inevitable.

  5. He’s under contract for two more years??? Boone aint going nowhere. If you believe in yourself and don’t want the security, sign a 1-2 year deal … he didn’t. Grant didn’t mention his “issues” going into the draft. The 49ers have been straight with Boone, play out your damn contract and get a fat contract next time. His agents are d-bags.

    1. Agreed.

      Professional athletes have no integrity. Their word means nothing. They signed a contract. Fulfill the terms of the contract you happily signed.

  6. The Niners want Boone. He’d prefer the Niners. He has arguements but not leverage. Come in. Get er done.

  7. You can bet the 49ers have plenty of backup plans if Boone continues to holdout. Snyder is one. Joe Looney is another. The 49ers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

    And there is Jonathan Martin,
    —————————
    Brandon Thomas as well.

  8. Wrong. Really wrong. Boone is tired of being a guard, the lowest position on the line money wise. He’ll be a stud LT on another team. That’s what he wants and that is what he’ll get. And the Niners are making a stupid move here because he’s the best player on the line, including Staley…

    1. Let him play LT for Miami in exchange for their 2nd Round pick and the 49ers 7th back…..

      1. Razor, please educate me about Miami. You have said this before. What’s their situation?

    2. I remember reading back in training camp, the year Aldon Smith was drafted, that Boone was the only tackle who could handle him. Then there was last year’s Rams game when Staley went out, Boone handled Quinn nicely. In the past I have advocated moving Boone to LT, Staley to RT, and A. Davis to RG. But that’s not how the Niners see it, so who am I to say? I have also agreed with those who say use Hunter more and work LMJ into the passing game.

      1. Nope, no relation. but we both went to THE Ohio State University. Almost 40 years apart. I still remember Woody Hayes striding across the Oval with a bunch of big bastards in tow…

  9. Alex is not like his Great Great Great Great Grandfather. Daniel Boone was a man of his word and a Americian hero. Alex lacks his integrity and frankly he is digressing as a football player.

    1. And you know this how? The guy is getting totally hosed and you write this stuff? Even the Niners — cheapest outfit in pro sports — know he’s getting a raw deal…

  10. Other than the fact you mistakenly keep saying Davis has leverage, I agree with the tone of the article Grant.

    Neither player has any leverage, and no recourse other than losing money and wasting prime playing years. That’s why Davis is now in camp, and Boone likely will be before the season begins.

    1. If he hasn’t returned by the Chargers game, I think they’ve hit the point of no return…..

      1. I don’t know when the point of no return is Razor, but I do know he won’t reclaim his job if he sits out the first 10 games and comes back for an accrued season; unless they have some big time injury problems.

        1. He tries that and he risks being put on the NFI list if he should incur injury, and then he’ll have another year added at his current rate of pay. Correct?

  11. Grant – Is a 4th rounder the highest you think we get for Boone? It almost seems like there are quite few tackle-desperate teams that may be willing to give a 3rd, maybe even some kind of incentive of it becoming a 2nd. But that may be too high. I think it would be a great move, especially with the depth we have with Looney, Snyder, and Martin. Plus if and when Iupati leaves next year we also have Thomas ready to take that spot as well.

    1. Snyder is beyond worthless. Martin is an unknown but his play in Miami sucked and Looney hasn’t shown much on the field. Some of you guys are pretty clueless about what it takes to be a top-level lineman. And what happens to your QB when you have a no-talent like Snyder lined up next to an idiot like Davis…

      1. I may be clueless, but I would bet the coaches aren’t. If they think they would be fine with Looney, Kilgore, Snyder, or Martin at Guard then I wouldn’t really argue…

        Let me guess you predicted Boone to be used as a guard since we drafted him….man Ghost you’re wasting your talents on that armchair.

          1. He may be. Problem is he’s a Guard on this team and won’t be paid like a Tackle or even an upper tier Guard.

  12. Have you been watching the same Niners as I have the past few years? When Snyder was in, the whole right side of the line was terrible. You don’t remember Alex Smith running for his life???

    Davis is not a “fine young tackle.” He’s big and aggressive. He also jumps the gun a lot, especially when Snyder was in there, causes too many penalties and whiffs on pass protection. Boone brought some professionalism to that side of the line. He was stuck between Davis and a center who was like 56 years old and let “your welcome” right up the middle. Snyder — again — couldn’t even cut it in Arizona two years ago. That should tell you volumes.

    Niners are cheap, have been since the Yorks took over. To even be in this situation with Boone speaks volumes for their priorities.

    1. Ghost,

      I don’t disagree on Snyder necessarily, but Davis is one of the better RT’s in the game and probably the best run blocking RT in the league. They didn’t resign him because they saw him as a liability the way you do.

      I like Boone, think he’s a really good player, but the team can’t pay everybody, and can’t set a precedent by ripping up a contract that has two years left on it.

      I’m not sure what Boone is looking for and that is really the most important piece of info we don’t have. However, he is not getting anywhere by holding out. The team has been adamant about not negotiating with holdouts and have options to replace him. Boone is achieving nothing with his holdout except making sure he makes no money at all this season.

  13. Michael silver just reported that Boone(earlier this off season) turned down a 2 year extension to make him a top 15 paid guard.

    1. Wow I didn’t see that one coming. So what does this mean, he wants tackle money??? Or he wants top 10 guard money???

      1. Unfortunately there were really no details so we don’t know what he wants or what the 9ers actually offered him.

        1. Holy Crap!!!!
          .
          That’s huge news!
          .
          If that’s true, my image of him is totally blown.
          .
          .
          .
          *ALOHA*

  14. He wants to play LT somewhere else. Remember, he was a walk on.

    If they get a 2nd for him to a team in the AFC, they’ve made out like bandits, he’s happy and Colin can get on his running shoes. New center and Davis up to his usual tricks means that roll out and dump it fast will be the new criteria…

Comments are closed.