The 49ers on Tuesday improved their dubious depth at offensive tackle after the Seahawks declined to match an offer sheet for restricted free agent Garry Gilliam.
A day earlier, the 49ers made Gilliam an offer on a deal for one-year deal worth $2.2 million, which Gilliam signed Tuesday. That apparently was too steep for Seattle, which has $9.7 million in salary-cap space. The 49ers, meanwhile, lead the league in cap room with $73.9 million, according to the NFL Players Association.
San Francisco has been looking for depth behind starting tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown. John Theus, a fifth-round pick a year ago, had been the team’s best option. Gilliam, 26, is another, and he is expected to push Brown for the starting role at right tackle.
Gilliam has started 30 games over the last three seasons, most of them at right tackle. He began as a tight end at Penn State before converting to tackle before his final season there. That makes him intriguing for two reasons: He still is learning the position and he has athleticism that makes him a good fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
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The Seahawks, who made several upgrades to their tenuous offensive line in the offseason, tendered Gilliam at the lowest level possible. Because he entered the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, the 49ers do not have to send any draft-pick compensation to Seattle.
Gilliam met with 49ers team officials, including Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, last week. The 49ers initially made him a multi-year offer that he rejected. They later amended it to a one-year deal that will allow Gilliam to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
The Seahawks at one point had high hopes for him, earmarking him as their left tackle for 2016. But when he struggled in the preseason, he was moved back to right tackle and then eventually was replaced as the starter there.
When his replacement, Bradley Sowell, ended up being even worse, Gilliam was re-inserted for the final two regular season games and for the playoffs in which his play improved.