Vance McDonald could interest the Chiefs, if released by 49ers

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Vance McDonald /

The San Francisco 49ers are likely to release at least one or two intriguing tight ends, and Vance McDonald could interest the Chiefs.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say. It’s not uncommon for one team to find something of value in a player even after one or multiple other teams have given up on the same player. It’s the story of numerous contributors every year in the NFL, and the Chiefs know these stories as well as any—from Terrance Mitchell to Ron Parker.

The San Francisco 49ers have a new regime in power with the hiring of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. Neither man was a part of giving tight end Vance McDonald a three-year contract extension in December, which means he might be one of a couple talented tight ends let go by the Niners as final roster cuts come soon enough. For a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, it could be another chance to find treasure in another team’s castoffs.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says McDonald could be given his release despite the newly signed extension. To explain, he writes:

"He is hands-down the most athletic tight end on the team, one who had not one, but two, touchdown catches of 65 yards or more last season. The catches were the 3rd- and 5th-longest grabs among NFL tight ends in 2016. The fact that McDonald was the team’s most explosive receiver last year led to him getting a five-year contract extension in December. That extension, however, does not appear to be a concern for the new regime, which, again, covets ruggedness."

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It seems odd for the Niners to give up on McDonald given his pass catching ability and the need for quality targets on offense. It’s not as if the Niners are strapped for cash, so even if they perceive his extension as overvalued, they can still pay the piper without worry. However it seems the 49ers primary issue with McDonald is just what Barrows describes. A tough injury history and the presence of other competitors could deem him expendable, which means the Chiefs could improve their club by buying low.

McDonald only made 11 starts last year and missed 2 games the year before that. In his four year career, McDonald has averaged 12 games per year (and 7.5 starts), which is nothing to hang your hat on. However the Chiefs aren’t looking to replace Travis Kelce. Instead they’re likely to replace the 30-plus targets they’d normally give to Demetrius Harris. And if it comes down to those two, McDonald seems a much better fit given Harris’ recent legal troubles and penchant for dropped passes last year (highest drop rate of anyone in the NFL with 30 targets).

The Chiefs already have Gavin Escobar in camp, but his blocking doesn’t even register, so if the Chiefs would like another tight end with decent hands and the ability to make defenders pay in the passing game, McDonald makes sense. He’s certainly a serious step above Escobar in terms of blocking, which makes McDonald more of a well-rounded option even if he’s still heavy on the offensive side.