Daniel Kilgore spent the better part of the summer sharing meals, golf outings and working out with his new teammates.
In less than 10 days, Kilgore will put on his new Dolphins’ jersey and line up beside them for the first time.
Roughly a month after that, Kilgore will also be a father for the first time.
It’s all been a new beginning that Kilgore, the Miami Dolphins’ new starting center, is grateful for after a shocking turn of events that marked the end of his seven-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers last March.
“You spend you’re whole career to that point in one place and to be told one thing and then lied to basically, you’re going to have those initial reactions of hate, [ticked] off, mad and just want to hurt everybody in the organization,” said Kilgore, a native of Kingsport, Tennessee and former standout at Appalachian State University. “But at the same time, within two or three days of not knowing where I was going, I heard I was going to [Miami] and I knew some of the coaches on the staff and being closer to home on the east coast made everything better.”
Kilgore, 30, was traded by the 49ers to the Dolphins in March in a deal that also involved a swap of seventh-round draft picks.
It was the 49ers’ way of moving on from Kilgore after seven years and 39 starts (74 games played) in San Francisco.
The shocking part for Kilgore is that it came shortly after the 49ers signed him to a three-year contract extension.
Shortly after the deal was made, the 49ers signed former New York Giants center Weston Richburg to a five-year, $47.5 million contract to become San Francisco’s new center, thus prompting them to trade Kilgore to Miami.
Kilgore told the local media afterward he never requested a trade nor was asked to play another position on the offensive line, and that he was told ‘he was no longer in the 49ers’ plans.’
Kilgore, however, said he has immediately found a comfort level with his fellow linemen and line coach Jeremiah Washburn.
Kilgore is projected to start alongside left tackle Laremy Tunsil, left guard Josh Sitton, right guard Jesse Davis and right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
“That was the positive out of the whole experience,” Kilgore said. “Being traded after signing a contract extension [stinks], but I’m definitely in a better situation here.”
While he’s not preoccupying himself with expectations, Kilgore is aware he has big shoes to fill.
The Dolphins brought in Kilgore (6-3, 291 pounds) after parting ways with mainstay Mike Pouncey (6-5, 300) in the offseason. Pouncey, who has since signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, made 93 total starts during his seven seasons in Miami.
But Pouncey’s chronic hip issues had become a concern, prompting the Dolphins to make the move for Kilgore and used some of the cap space saved to sign Sitton, a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
With Kilgore, the Dolphins might have upgraded at center in terms of run blocking although they are aware that pass blocking could be a bit of a concern by comparison to Pouncey’s production last season.
Kilgore, who took 1,098 snaps at center in 2017 for the 49ers, was graded 23rd among all NFL centers according to ProFootballFocus.com last season, which ranked four spots ahead of Pouncey. Kilgore had a 53.5 percent run blocking efficiency in 403 run snaps according to Pro Football Focus, which was better than Pouncey’s 43.5 in 334 such snaps.
Kilgore’s 52.1 percent pass blocking efficiency in 695 passing snaps ranked worse than Pouncey’s 71.8 percent in 637 such snaps.
But Pro Football Focus ranked his pass blocking efficiency among the top 10 centers in the league during the final five weeks of the season when the 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Kilgore did not allow a sack or a quarterback hit during that span and the 49ers finished on a five-game win streak.
Having a healthy and mobile Ryan Tannehill could also help produce similar results.
“I won’t say that I’m Mike Pouncey or trying to emulate him,” Kilgore said. “I’m trying to be my own guy, but I have nothing but respect for what Mike did here. I’m just trying to get better and get it going with this group of guys.”