San Francisco 49ers

Thoughts on Alex Boone as training camp holdout looms

Of the 49ers' two potential training-camp holdouts, one has a stronger argument than the other. Whereas Vernon Davis currently is the fourth highest-paid tight end in the NFL, you'd have to drop far down the list of starting guards to find Alex Boone's name.

More than 40 of them average more per year than Boone, who has started every game at right guard for San Francisco over the last two seasons. Boone's $1.6 million average puts him just ahead of Cleveland Browns rookie Joel Bitonio and behind the Dallas Cowboys' rookie Zach Martin.

The disconnect between Boone's salary and his output is due to the fact that he signed a contract extension in 2011 when he was considered a backup offensive tackle, not a starting guard. Indeed, one of Boone's stronger arguments for why he deserves more is that he's also the 49ers' top candidate to start at left or right tackle if either Joe Staley or Anthony Davis left with an injury.

That scenario occurred last year against St. Louis when, following an injury to Staley, Boone suddenly found himself at left tackle and staring at one of the top pass rushers in the league, the Rams' Robert Quinn, who at that point had the second most sacks in the league. Boone shut down Quinn the rest of the day despite not having studied the pass rusher in the run-up to the game.

It's unknown how much Boone, 27, is seeking or how long he's willing to maintain his holdout. But barring any sudden breakthrough in negotiations, it's certain that his spring holdout will turn into a summer holdout when the other veterans report for duty next week.

The 49ers can't argue that Boone isn't underpaid. Rather, their negotiating strength is that the team has plenty of potential replacements for Boone -- beginning with 2012 draft pick Joe Looney, who also filled in well during last year's Rams game -- if the holdout lingers into August or beyond. Another candidate, Marcus Martin, reports to training camp today along with the rest of the 49ers’ rookies.

What will be interesting is whether the 49ers contemplate a trade if the holdout persists, and if so, whether potential trade partners see Boone as a tackle or a guard.

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