Tight end Delanie Walker dropped a few balls. And he did not catch a whole lot passes. But he was an integral part of the team's offensive philosophy.
Walker's versatility enabled offensive coordinator Greg Roman to use a lot of different formations. If Walker was on the field, it was no tip-off whether the 49ers would run or pass. He caught 21 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns last season. But he was even better as a run-blocker, as he helped the 49ers average 5.1 yards per attempt.
Walker agreed to a four-year contract Tuesday with the Tennessee Titans, according to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean and other outlets. Walker's contract is four years, $17.5 million with $8.6 million guaranteed, according to ESPN. In Walker's seven seasons with the 49ers, he earned a total of $7.7 million, a league source told CSNBayArea.com.
His absence will have a major impact on the 49ers' offense next season.
With Vernon Davis under contract through 2015, Walker was never going to be a starter with the 49ers. Yes, he played nearly 60 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps, but he was never going to be a starter. But he was the "Swiss Army knife" of the 49ers' offense, as he regularly lined up at tight end, fullback, H-back, slot and wide receiver.
So, now, the 49ers have another hole to fill on their roster. Undrafted rookie Garrett Celek is the only other tight end on the roster. The 49ers can look for a backup in free agency. And the team can also address that need in the draft.
The 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick, the 49ers have the option of packing some draft picks to move up to select one of the top tight ends available.
Stanford's Zach Ertz, Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and San Diego State's Gavin Escobar are considered the top tight ends available.