The identity of the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback for 2005 remains uncertain. But the 49ers ensured on Wednesday night that, whoever tops the quarterback depth chart will receive better pass protection than was provided a year ago.
That's because the 49ers reached a contract agreement with Buffalo Bills unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Jonas Jennings, arguably the highest-rated player at his position in the veteran pool. Jennings flew to the Bay Area early Wednesday, just after the signing period officially commenced, and his agent, Todd France, negotiated a deal over the course of the day.
On a seven-year contract, Jennings will earn $36 million. The contract includes $12 million in bonuses.
Landing a tackle of Jennings' caliber represents a significant upgrade for San Francisco, especially if he lines up on the left side, as anticipated. The 49ers used two players at the key left tackle position in 2004, with former first-round choice Kwame Harris starting seven games and Kyle Kosier starting in nine contests.
But Harris, the team's top pick in the 2003 draft, seems better suited to playing right tackle. Kosier, a three-year veteran whose overall performance probably suffers from the fact the 49ers move him around so much, is a natural guard. Acquiring Jennings, who is a four-year veteran, should permit San Francisco to play Harris on the right side, where he would replace the aging Scott Gragg.
If the 49ers choose a quarterback with the first overall choice in the draft, Jennings will be a nice way to protect that pricey investment.
Jennings, 27, is a huge (6-feet-3, 345 pounds) blocker who started his career at the right tackle slot, and then moved to the left side in his second season. While not the classic blindside pass protector, he has deceptively quick feet and good techniques. Jennings is also a strong blocker in the running game.
A third-round pick in 2001, Jennings, who played at the University of Georgia, has appeared in 52 games, all starts.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.