Alex Mack

49ers Not Planning To Sign Free Agent C

As they attempt to replace Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack, the 49ers are light on experience. For now, that is not fazing the team. San Francisco is not planning to chase a free agent upgrade at center, Kyle Shanahan said during minicamp.

The 49ers turned to Jake Brendel as their first-teamer throughout OTAs and have continued this setup at minicamp. Brendel would be an atypical solution. The former UDFA turns 30 before Week 1 and has made three career starts — all as a fill-in with the 2018 Dolphins. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster was Brendel’s position coach during part of his Miami tenure. The 49ers are Brendel’s fifth team.

Mack retirement rumors lingered for weeks, and Shanahan said the coaching staff had been expecting the 13-year veteran to hang up his cleats since March. Mack’s mid-offseason retirement comes two years after Joe Staley did the same. The 49ers moved aggressively to replace Staley, trading for Trent Williams soon after. J.C. Tretter and Matt Paradis would are available, but free agency is not San Francisco’s Mack replacement plan.

We didn’t want to make it a big thing and go chase stuff, especially when the player that we have in here has done a good job and has shown us in here that he can do it,” Shanahan said, via David Lombardi of The Athletic (subscription required). “… You know all the veterans out there. We’ve had an idea about it for a while, so we’ve been looking at all situations, and right now, we feel like we’re doing the best one for us.”

Shanahan’s praise notwithstanding, Brendel has played six offensive snaps in the past three years. The UCLA alum is not the only option here, but he seems poised to enter training camp as the clear favorite. The 49ers signed Keaton Sutherland, who played in one game with the Bengals last season, and drafted Nick Zakelj in Round 6. Zakelj finished his Fordham career as a tackle, but Lombardi notes the 49ers view him as a possible long-term center option.

The prospect of right guard Daniel Brunskill sliding over is not out of the question, either, with second-year tackle convert Jaylon Moore competing at right guard as well. But Brunskill’s 35 straight guard starts suddenly look important for interior-line continuity purposes. Second-round pick Aaron Banks (five 2021 offensive snaps) is set to take over for Tomlinson, a five-year 49ers starter, at left guard.

No matter who wins the center job, the 49ers will move to their fourth primary snapper in four years. Weston Richburg‘s late-2019 injury — what became a career-ending malady — threw the team’s pivot plans off course.

Jake made our team last year as a backup center,” Shanahan said. “In order to do that, you’ve got to believe they have an ability to start. We had a lot of confidence last year in Jake to make the team. If Mack would’ve ever missed a game or something, we wouldn’t have hesitated and we would’ve gone into that game very confident with him. We also have guys like Brunskill who has done it before, and I think we have some young guys who can do it.”

Latest On 49ers’ Offensive Line Situation

Last year saw the 49ers advance to their second NFC Championship game in the last three years, but the offensive line that took them there is set to look a bit different as San Francisco readies for the 2022 NFL season. The 49ers’ left guard for the last five seasons, Laken Tomlinson, is now a Jet, Tom Compton, who started seven regular season games and all three playoff games at right tackle for the team when Mike McGlinchey went down with an injury last year, is now in Denver, and last year’s starting center, Alex Mack, officially announced his retirement this week. 

San Francisco should be set at left tackle and right guard with 12-year veteran Trent Williams manning the blindside and Daniel Brunskill starting just right of center for the past two seasons. Though Compton, who played well in his time as an injury-replacement last year, is gone, the 49ers do return McGlinchey from injury to fill the right tackle spot. McGlinchey is heading into a contract year and will try to earn himself a solid second deal with his production this season. He’s been strong while run-blocking in his career, but started off with some struggles in pass-protection. McGlinchey was showing some improvement in his pass-pro before his injury last season, and the 49ers will likely give him a chance to show he can be the whole package.

With those three spots manned, the conversation now turns to left guard and center. The favorite to fill in at left guard is 2021 second-round draft pick Aaron Banks. Banks was slowed in his rookie-season by a preseason shoulder injury, leading to him appearing in nine games but only seeing five offensive snaps last season, getting most of his playing time on special teams. McGlinchey’s former-teammate at Notre Dame made tremendous progress throughout the season, though. Head coach Kyle Shanahan even said that Banks could have replaced Brunskill in the lineup late last season, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. The team held off on making that switch as they surged into the postseason with plenty of success, but with an opening at guard this year, it’s hard to imagine Banks not getting his opportunity.

At center, the options are much less clear-cut. With Mack gone, the only player on the roster with an NFL start at center is former undrafted free agent Jake Brendel, who started three games for the Dolphins in 2018. Brendel has been taking first-team snaps at center in practices, according to another article from Branch. General manager John Lynch claims that the team has “a lot of confidence in (Brendel’s) ability,” despite Brendel not being “a household name.” The 49ers also brought in their own undrafted rookie this year in Dohnovan West, who was Arizona State’s starting center all three years of his collegiate career.

Unless San Francisco plans to try some other rostered offensive line reserves at center this year, they may need to go to the free agent market. This would continue a trend that Lynch and the Niners have followed over the past few years of signing an impact free agent interior lineman in the weeks after the Draft. 2017 saw the addition of eventual starting right guard Brandon Fusco in early May, 2018 saw the addition of eventual starting right guard Michael Person in early May, and 2019 saw the addition of part-time starting center Ben Garland in late April.

Available free agent centers include NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, former Broncos and Panthers center Matt Paradis, former Bengals starting center Trey Hopkins, and former Texans lineman Nick Martin. Lynch may mean what he says and Brendel may be their man in the middle, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 49ers act on some of the available experience out there on the market.

With three spots filled with experienced starters and two very real options to fill the other two spots, San Francisco is on their way to building their offensive line for next season. Whether the five lineman running with the first team now will be the Week 1 starters is yet to be seen, but Lynch and Shanahan are aware of their options and may not be done addressing the position group just yet.

49ers C Alex Mack To Retire

After a lengthy stretch of contemplation about retirement or playing a 14th season, Alex Mack looks to have decided on the former. The decorated center is set to retire, Michael Silver of Bally Sports reports (on Twitter).

This will cap Mack’s 49ers tenure at one year and give the team another interior offensive lineman to replace. Mack started all 20 49ers games last season, rejoining Kyle Shanahan after the two previously linked up in Atlanta and Cleveland. Joining Ryan Fitzpatrick as a Thursday retiree, Mack finishes his career as a seven-time Pro Bowler.

Mack’s seven Pro Bowls are tied for sixth all time among pure centers, and although the Pro Bowl alternate era factors into this count, that number ranks behind only Maurkice Pouncey and Hall of Famers Jim Otto, Jim Ringo, Mike Webster and Kevin Mawae. Mack joined Pouncey on the 2010s’ All-Decade team at center.

The 49ers have had extensive time to prepare for this outcome and gained around $4MM in cap room Thursday by reducing Mack’s contract and moving $500K up to a June 2022 payment. Mack, 36, signed a three-year deal worth $14.85MM in 2021. That telling transaction will allow the 49ers more flexibility to potentially sign a Mack replacement, though Jimmy Garoppolo‘s $26.9MM cap hold has clogged San Francisco’s payroll for a while. It does not look like that lofty figure will come off San Francisco’s books in the near future, and the team entered Thursday ranking 31st in cap space. Mack’s adjustment still stands to help.

The Browns drafted Mack in the 2009 first round, and he delivered three Pro Bowl seasons in six Cleveland years. The Cal alum enjoyed an interesting offseason in 2014, when the Browns transition-tagged him and Jaguars submitted an offer sheet. The Browns matched the five-year, $42MM offer, but that deal gave Mack the right to opt out after two seasons. He did, doing so in 2016 en route to rejoining Shanahan — his Browns OC in 2014 — with in Atlanta. The Falcons handed Mack a five-year, $45MM deal, giving Matt Ryan a quality center ahead of a key season.

Atlanta’s Shanahan-conducted 2016 offense scored 540 points, which still ranks eighth in NFL history. Mack earned the second of his three second-team All-Pro nods, helping Ryan claim MVP honors. This season ended infamously in Super Bowl LI, but Mack made the Pro Bowl in his first three Falcons campaigns. He only missed two games during his Falcons years, playing out that five-year accord ahead of his return to the Bay Area. Mack earned his seventh Pro Bowl invite, albeit as an alternate, for his 49ers work.

Mack’s arrival helped the NFC West squad, which saw a severe Weston Richburg injury alter its center plans previously. This marks another belated retirement announcement on the 49ers’ O-line, which lost Joe Staley to an April 2020 retirement. The team responded by trading for Trent Williams. If the 49ers have a similar mindset two years later, some experienced snappers are available.

NFLPA president J.C. Tretter remains on the market, after the Browns made their five-year center a cap casualty in March. Former Broncos and Panthers starter Matt Paradis is also a free agent, with ex-Bengals starter Trey Hopkins and former Texans pivot Nick Martin available as well. The 49ers, who lost five-year left guard Laken Tomlinson in free agency, have some young internal options. None resides in the experience ballpark compared to the aforementioned UFA contingent.

Alex Mack Restructures Deal; Retirement Decision Still Looming

While the 49ers await the ultimate decision made by center Alex Mack regarding his playing future, they have some added financial flexibility. The veteran agreed to a re-working of his contract, as detailed by ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). 

Mack’s base salary will drop from $5MM to $1.12MM this season, creating some immediate cap space for San Francisco. In 2023 — the final year of his contract — his salary will decrease from $3.35MM to just under $1.2MM. Perhaps the most telling aspect of this move, however is the matter of the guaranteed money in the deal.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that $500K (the only guaranteed compensation Mack was due this year or next) has been converted to a roster bonus. That is significant, as it means the 36-year-old will receive the money this month, something which wouldn’t have happened if he had retired and it had remained a part of his base salary. Garafolo posits that the move represents a “parting gift” from the 49ers.

That makes today’s news another sign that Mack has played his final game in the NFL. When it was first reported that he was considering hanging up his cleats – despite having only played one season in the Bay Area on a three-year pact, suiting up for all 17 games and being named a Pro Bowler for the seventh time — team personnel made it clear their expectation was that he would return. Head coach Kyle Shanahan recently struck a much different tone on the subject, however.

“I’ve talked to him here and there,” Shanahan said last week“I’ve been in touch with him throughout the offseason… I’ve got a pretty good idea of what he’s doing… I’m going to leave that up to Alex, but I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

If Mack does indeed retire, the 49ers would be forced to add a veteran at the center position for the second straight season. Some of the remaining options include J.C. Tretter, Trey Hopkins and Billy Price. The team now has more money to work with should it become necessary to sign one of them, but his retirement would leave another significant hole needing to be filled on the interior of their offensive line.

Latest On 49ers C Alex Mack

While most of the questions surrounding San Francisco’s offense relate to the futures of Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel, the decision center Alex Mack makes with respect to his career is significant as well. A final answer to the question of whether or not he will retire appears to be coming soon. 

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that Mack is leaning towards ending his career. Despite the fact that two years remain on his current contract, he writes, “it appears that… Mack is ready to walk away from the game”. Not surprisingly, the team is leaving a final announcement up to him.

“I’ve talked to him here and there” head coach Kyle Shanahan said when asked about Mack’s future. “I’ve been in touch with him throughout the offseason… I’ve got a pretty good idea of what he’s doing… I’m going to leave that up to Alex, but I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

The notion that the 36-year-old could choose to retire this season isn’t new, of course. It was reported in April that Mack was considering doing just that; both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch stated at the time, however, that they were under the impression Mack would return for at least one more season. A retirement announcement in the near future would contradict their line of thought from one month ago, but it would also create a significant hole on the team’s offensive line.

In his first year with the 49ers, Mack earned his seventh Pro Bowl nod and continued his career-long streak of starting every game he was available for. If he were to retire, San Francisco would face even more turnover along their offensive front; left guard Laken Tomlinson signed with the Jets in free agency, while right tackle Mike McGlinchey was limited to eight games last season as a result of injury. The team added Spencer Burford and Nick Zakelj during the draft, but neither project as options at center at the NFL level.

NFC West Rumors: Samuel, Lynch, Cross, Mack, Rams

49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel helped push the narrative that his relationship with San Francisco was deteriorating in early April when he unfollowed the 49ers and removed all references to the team from his social media. Well, according to Michael David Smith of NBC Sports, Samuel has signaled that things may be trending in a better direction lately.

Smith points out that Samuel refollowed the 49ers on Instagram and liked a post that showed general manager John Lynch saying that the issues between the two parties can be worked out.

Samuel is headed into the final year of his rookie contract and is looking for a nice, new payday. Smith makes a good point that new deals to Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs are going to make a new deal for Samuel fairly costly for the 49ers.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with another note from the Bay Area:

  • Jake Hutchinson, the 49ers beat writer for KNBR, released some quotes from an interview with Lynch. Lynch commented on the progress of the team’s efforts to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, saying, “I felt we were close in some discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery and it brought things to a screeching halt.” Lynch continued, “We either want to have Jimmy playing for us, which we’re alright with, or we want him to get the value.”
  • During a press conference with Seahawks general manager and executive vice president John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll after the Draft, ESPN’s Brady Henderson released a video containing some of their thoughts on the No. 9 overall pick, Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross. In it, the two specify that they see Cross on the blindside, playing left tackle. They don’t have concerns about him transitioning from Mike Leach‘s spread offense at Mississippi State due to Cross’s athleticism. They also felt very fortunate to have had Cross fall to them at 9, noting that there were opportunities to move up or down.
  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic wrote an article going over the results of the 49ers’ 2022 Draft. He notes that the two Day 3-additions of UTSA tackle Spencer Burford and Fordham tackle Nick Zakelj both played tackle in college, but project as NFL guards, similar to past draft picks Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore. While slightly problematic that none of these linemen specialize at guard or tackle, it’s extremely problematic that none of them have experience at center. With current center Alex Mack sitting at 36 and contemplating retirement, it’s important that San Francisco begins to look at options beyond Mack to play center.
  • In a rundown of the Rams’ 2022 Draft, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic unveiled an interesting rumor about how highly Los Angeles valued their third-round draft pick, Wisconsin guard Logan Bruss. With plenty of time before their selection arrived, the Rams knew Bruss was the player they wanted to target at No. 104 overall. Upon the suggestion of now-retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was in the Rams’ draft room, Los Angeles made a few efforts to move up to select Bruss earlier. Unfortunately for them, the teams they called declined. Fortunately for them, though, Bruss found his way to Southern California despite their inability to move up.

49ers C Alex Mack Mulling Retirement

Alex Mack‘s 49ers contract runs through the 2023 season, but the decorated center has not determined if he wants to play the second season of that three-year pact. Mack is considering retirement, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are operating like Mack will be back, but as the 49ers begin their offseason program, they face the prospect of losing another offensive line starter. A former first-round Browns pick, Mack returning would mean playing a 14th NFL season. Mack has played 204 career games.

We’ve had really good communication. He’s training like he’s coming back,” Lynch said at the league’s recent owners meetings. “I won’t speak for him, but all signs are him coming back and him being part of us.”

Shanahan brought his former Falcons charge to San Francisco last year, and Mack earned his seventh Pro Bowl nod — albeit as an alternate — after playing all 17 games. The 49ers have right tackle Mike McGlinchey coming off a season-ending injury and will be breaking in a new left guard, after Laken Tomlinson‘s Jets defection. Mack coming back would certainly help the contending team, one set to begin the Trey Lance era after four-plus seasons with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.

Mack surprising the 49ers with a mid-offseason retirement would remind of Joe Staley‘s decision to hang up his cleats in April 2020. The 49ers traded for Trent Williams to patch that hole. A Mack successor could come in the draft, should it be necessary. Center should certainly be a position the 49ers consider with an early- or mid-round pick, given Mack’s hesitancy ahead of his age-37 season.

49ers Sign C Alex Mack

Trent Williams isn’t the only notable lineman headed to San Francisco. Free agent center Alex Mack also agreed to join the 49ers in the wee hours of Wednesday morning (Twitter link via’s Ian Rapoport).

Mack’s deal is a one-year pact worth $5.5MM, according to Rapoport (on Twitter).

It’s a return to sunny California for the UC Berkeley product. The deal also marks a reunion with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Mack previously played for Shanahan with the Browns and Falcons. Mack, 36 in November, comes with serious credentials — six Pro Bowls and a track record for durability. He’s played in and started in just about every possible game since 2009, save for his injury-plagued 2014.

The 49ers needed a quality middle-man in the worst way. While Williams turned in a stellar season, the interior line struggled to hold the line. That’s part of the reason why the Niners’ offense sagged and the club needed a new solution in the wake of Weston Richburg‘s retirement. Journeyman Ben Garland was given a chance to start, but the journeyman wound up with an injury of his own.

Mack, who made the NFL’s most recent all-decade team, can officially put pen to paper at 4pm ET today.

Alex Mack Interested In Joining 49ers

Falcons center Alex Mack is 35 now, but it doesn’t sound like retirement is anywhere near his mind. In fact, the impending free agent appears to already be thinking about destinations, and has an interesting one in mind.

Mack called playing for the 49ers “very enticing” when speaking with Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports this past week. Mack specifically singled out Kyle Shanahan, who he played under in 2014 with the Browns and 2016 with the Falcons. “Kyle is an incredible coach,” Mack said. “He’s an incredible coach, great person, strong motivator and runs an offense that is something that I’d know really well and that I performed very well in.”

The interest is clearly there on Mack’s side, and since the 49ers have a lot of uncertainty at center right now, it could be a perfect match. Weston Richburg, San Francisco’s normal starter, missed this entire past season after suffering a devastating knee injury late in the 2019 campaign. He has two years left on his deal but it’s unlikely he’s back at his hefty $8MM+ salaries, and as Maiocco points out the team can save nearly $5MM by cutting him this offseason.

Ben Garland became the 49ers’ starter, but he’s a journeyman who got himself injured as well after just a handful of games. A first-round pick out of Cal back in 2009, Mack is a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro who made the NFL’s all-decade team for the 2010s at center.

Despite his somewhat advanced age he’s been durable, starting 14 games this past year and all 16 in 10 of the previous 11. Mack got five years and $45MM from Atlanta last time he hit free agency and while his next contract won’t be quite as lucrative, he should still command a decent amount of money from the 49ers or any other team.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/13/21

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Activated off reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans