Six days after they signed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a multiyear contract, the 49ers did the same with the guy who snapped Garoppolo the ball last season.
Daniel Kilgore, however, joked on a Wednesday conference call there was no private jet waiting to whisk him and his family from his Tennessee home to a news conference in Santa Clara like there was for the quarterback.
“It’s 2018. They just do the DocuSign, so it’s all good,” he said of his three-year contract. “I was in the middle of working out when I signed my contract. … But I would take the private jet.”
Kilgore, 30, is the third pending 49ers free agent to receive a new contract in the last two weeks. Garoppolo signed a record, five-year deal last week while defensive end Cassius Marsh inked a two-year extension the week before that.
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According to Pro Football Focus, Kilgore had a rough start to the 2017 season. But like everyone else on offense, he seemed to flourish when Garoppolo took over as starter in early December and he did not allow a sack or a quarterback hit in the last five games.
At the end of the season he was named the winner of the team’s Bobb McKittrick Award, which exemplifies the dedication, excellence and commitment of the late offensive-line coach.
As players were cleaning out their lockers, Garoppolo gave Kilgore a vote of confidence. “There’s a special relationship between the center and quarterback,” he said on Jan. 1. “We spend so much time together. ...We complement each other very well.”
One of Kyle Shanahan’s priorities on offense is having a sturdy, veteran center. The 49ers traded for nine-year veteran Jeremy Zuttah in March and signed another center, Tim Barnes, later in the spring. Kilgore, however, never budged from his starting spot and Zuttah and Barnes eventually were released.
“My whole career, there’s always been competition,” Kilgore said. “I’ve never been the guy they slated in as the starter and said, ‘Daniel is our guy.’ So there’s always been competition as there probably will be in the future, too, with free agency coming up. I’m sure the 49ers will go out and get a free-agent offensive lineman.”
Kilgore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, dealt with a serious leg fracture when he first became the 49ers’ starter in 2014 and he wasn’t able to get back onto the field until the end of the 2015 season. This past season was the first in which he started all 16 games and he said, “there’s still a lot of football left in me.”
He’s the only member of San Francisco’s vaunted 2011 draft class – it included Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Chris Culliver – who remains with the team. In fact, Kilgore, sixth-round pick Colin Jones (Carolina) and seventh-rounder Mike Person (Indianapolis) are the only members of that 49ers draft class currently on an active NFL roster.
Kilgore said he considered entering free agency, which begins March 14, and testing his value on the market. But he noted that there were a number of younger centers available, too, and he became “nervous” that San Francisco could go in a different direction.
After watching the franchise steadily rebuild itself last season, he said, this is where he wanted to be.
“It’s just amazing to me with so many guys from different backgrounds, from different teams, different age groups, how well we meshed together and how well we all get along with each other,” he said. “… That was something I didn’t want to give up. That’s important to me as a player, as a professional. I think that’s one of the most important things that you can have when it comes to a team sport and that’s one thing I didn’t want to lose.”