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There are few players who peak in their 30s and Delanie Walker’s name is right at the top of that list. Walker spent six years with the 49ers, mostly as a backup tight end and fullback. And then he signed with the Tennessee Titans and blossomed into one of the league’s unquestionably elite tight ends.
And now, after sitting out for a season, he may be heading back to the Bay, entering his age 37 season, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Free agent TE Delanie Walker is flying to Santa Clara for a workout with the #49ers tomorrow, source says. Perhaps another stint with the Niners for Walker, who was with them from 2006-12.
Walker sat out last year but said on the @PatMcAfeeShow in December he would play in ‘21.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 1, 2021
San Francisco would be missing out on the best of Walker on either end of his career, but they’d still be acquiring someone who was a fairly recent Pro Bowler, and if healthy, could be the crucial backup tight end behind George Kittle that they’ve long needed.
After his first season with the Titans, Walker had four-straight years of 800-plus receiving yards with at least three touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl three-straight times from 2015-17. He was snakebitten by an ankle fracture and ankle sprain, though, in 2018 and 2019, playing a combined nine games. From his sophomore season through 2017, Walker had never played in fewer than 14 games.
The hope, then, is that Walker gets the same benefit from a season of not playing football that Trent Williams did. While Williams would likely have been dominant regardless of the situation, the year off helped his body recover from the toll of more than a decade straight of playing football without reprieve. If Walker can get back to anything like the player he was during his peak in Tennessee, the 49ers will have a steal.