Daniel Brunskill

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.

OL Notes: Giants, Radunz, Steelers, Brunskill

After fielding another below-average offensive line last season, one that saw key injuries reconfigure it early on in the campaign, the Giants loaded up on blockers this offseason. Newcomers Evan Neal, Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano are projected to start at right tackle, right guard and center, respectively. Andrew Thomas is the team’s unquestioned left tackle. That leaves left guard as the top competition area. Holdover Shane Lemieux appears to be the favorite for that job, via NJ.com’s Zack Rosenblatt, who notes the third-year player has been a full participant despite coming off a patellar tendon tear that cost him 16 games last season. Lemieux, who started down the stretch for the 2020 Giants and has received the first reps with the starters thus far, attempted to play through the severe knee injury in Week 1 but ended up missing the season’s remainder.

The Joe SchoenBrian Daboll regime, however, brought in third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu (North Carolina). Although Max Garcia arrived this offseason as well, Rosenblatt adds the Giants view the eighth-year veteran as more of a backup. This sets up a Lemieux-Ezeudu left guard battle, one that will determine if the Giants have three or four new starters up front.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s O-line scene:

  • The Titans lost two starters from their 2021 O-line — left guard Rodger Saffold and stopgap right tackle David Quessenberry — and are aiming to plug in former second-round pick Dillon Radunz. The North Dakota State product, who made just one start as a rookie, is vying for the team’s right tackle gig but also factors into the guard mix, Jim Wyatt of Titans.com offers. Radunz, chosen a year after would-be right tackle Isaiah Wilson became a quick bust, was a full-timer for the Bison from 2018-19 but lost the 2020 season due to the pandemic. The Titans used a third-round pick on Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere, representing another right tackle option. Third-year UDFA Aaron Brewer and ex-Seahawk Jamarco Jones are on the roster as left guard candidates.
  • Daniel Brunskill has started 35 straight regular-season games for the 49ers, slotting primarily at right guard. The fourth-year veteran has shown an ability to fill in at all five O-line spots, and Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes the 49ers would prefer Brunskill as a super-sub rather than as the full-time starter. For this reality to unfold, the team would need a viable replacement. Jaylon Moore, a 2021 fifth-round pick who has moved inside from tackle, represents competition for the 49ers’ right guard position. Given Brunskill’s experience, benching him would be quite the gamble for a team that lost five-year left guard Laken Tomlinson in free agency and looks set to lose center Alex Mack to retirement.
  • Steelers newcomers James Daniels and Mason Cole look set to play right guard and center, respectively, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo, leaving a competition between two 2021 starters at left guard. The Steelers following through on the rumored move of center Kendrick Green to guard, his primary college position, has created a competition between he and Kevin Dotson — a 13-game starter through two years. Pro Football Focus graded Dotson well as a rookie, albeit in a small sample size, but an ankle injury doomed his sophomore NFL season. Green started 15 games last year; PFF graded the rookie third-rounder as one of the league’s worst centers. Given a three-year, $15.75MM deal, Cole coming to Pittsburgh has led to Green’s position switch.

RFA/ERFA Tender Signings: 4/19/22

Here’s a look at the latest tender signings from around the NFL:

RFAs

Signed:

ERFAs

Signed:

NFC West Notes: Seahawks, Watt, 49ers

After starting 16 games for the Cowboys last season, Aldon Smith has seen his career veer off track again. The Seahawks cut the talented edge defender last week, and Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes the team did not do so because of Smith’s on-field work. This was a non-football-related exit for Smith, whom Pete Carroll said (via the Tacoma News Tribune’s Greg Bell; video link) “couldn’t hang with” the Seahawks despite the team giving the suspension risk a “real shot.” The Seahawks signed Smith in April, but shortly after that agreement, the 32-year-old pass rusher was booked on a battery charge. He also was not in good enough shape to participate in Seattle’s June minicamp, raising more red flags about his 2021 viability. Smith was out of football from 2016-19, but Roger Goodell greenlit his reinstatement last year. Smith recorded five sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown with Dallas.

Here is more from Seattle and the latest from elsewhere in the NFC West:

  • The third and fourth seasons of Jamal Adamsfour-year, $70MM extension do not include any guaranteed money, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. That said, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl safety will collect all but $2.56MM of his $38MM in guarantees by February 2022. Because of Adams’ $20MM signing bonus being spread throughout the deal, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, the 2021 cap hit will be just $5MM. Adams’ contract also includes $2.75MM in incentives. Adams can collect $250K for each season he notches the rare (for other safeties, but in play for him) five-sack, three-interception double. The 25-year-old defender interestingly has just two career INTs, but he has met the sack requirement here twice — 6.5 in 2019, a safety-record 9.5 in 2020.
  • Aaron Banks had a good chance to become a 49ers starting guard in Week 1, but his lineup path will be delayed. The second-round pick suffered a shoulder injury in San Francisco’s first preseason game; he will be sidelined for as many as three weeks. While the Iowa product should be healthy at some point in September, Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes (subscription required) that this should allow Daniel Brunskill to keep his starting right guard spot come Week 1. Brunskill started all 16 49ers games at right guard last season.
  • The Cardinals won the J.J. Watt sweepstakes, but they hope to decrease the future Hall of Famer’s workload this season. They want Watt to play closer to 65% of their defensive snaps this season, rather than venturing into the 90% neighborhood, Jim Trotter of NFL.com notes. Despite his run of injuries in the late 2010s, Watt played 91% of the Texans’ snaps last season. In his seven non-injury-limited seasons, the five-time All-Pro played at least 88% of Houston’s defensive snaps. With Watt already dealing with a hamstring injury that will likely shelve him until Week 1, Arizona D-line coach Brentson Buckner is hoping to lighten his workload to maximize his productivity and extend his career.
  • After suffering a foot fracture for the second straight summer, Seahawks tight end Colby Parkinson received some good news. The break will not require surgery, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This will allow for a quicker return for the Stanford product. Prior to the setback, Parkinson was set to see time alongside Gerald Everett and Will Dissly this season.

OL Rumors: Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Solder, Eagles

The Raiders are tracking to have two starters from their 2020 Week 1 offensive line setup back, with Kolton Miller signed long-term and Richie Incognito back on a lower-cost deal. But spillover from another training camp battle may affect Incognito’s standing. Denzelle Good and John Simpson will vie for the starting right guard spot, but Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed of The Athletic note Raiders coaches have informed the team’s guards the loser of this competition may still wind up replacing Incognito at left guard (subscription required). Incognito, 38, played well in 2019 but missed 14 games due to an Achilles injury last season. The Raiders cut him in March but re-signed him weeks later on a one-year, $2.12MM deal. Good replaced Incognito last year, and the Raiders are hoping Simpson — a 2020 fourth-round pick out of Clemson — can win the right guard competition.

Here is more on the Raiders’ O-line and the latest from some other offensive fronts around the league:

  • Elsewhere on Las Vegas’ O-line, the center spot may not be much of a competition. Despite offseason addition Nick Martin having started four full seasons with the Texans, the former second-round pick appears to be clearly behind former UDFA Andre James, according to The Athletic. After trading Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, the Raiders gave James an extension. James has played 116 offensive snaps as a pro; all came in 2019.
  • Nate Solder has moved to the Giants‘ roster bubble, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. The 6-foot-8 veteran worked as New York’s starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19, after signing a then-record tackle contract in free agency, but opted out in 2020. The Giants can spread out Solder’s cap hit over multiple years, but they would face a $13.5MM cumulative dead-money charge by cutting Solder. Andrew Thomas has taken over as New York’s left tackle, with Raanan adding that Solder will compete with second-year blocker Matt Peart for the right tackle job. Solder has not been a full-time right tackle since his rookie season in 2011.
  • Although former UDFA Daniel Brunskill provided some stability amid 49ers injury chaos last season, starting 16 games, the team plans to return him to a utility role. The 49ers are eyeing second-round pick Aaron Banks as their starting right guard, Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic note. Brunskill worked as a swing backup as a rookie in 2019, primarily filling in for left tackle Joe Staley. The 49ers selected Banks 48th overall; the 325-pound rookie started in part of his sophomore season and throughout his junior and senior years at Notre Dame.
  • Rather than stockpile depth at tackle, the Eagles may look to trade the loser of the Andre DillardJordan Mailata left tackle competition, Eliot Shorr-Parks writes. While keeping both would provide insurance, Shorr-Parks notes moving Mailata in a contract year would make sense and Dillard may lose more value if he goes through this season as a backup. A 2019 first-round pick, Dillard missed all of last season due to injury and has logged just four career starts. A rugby convert chosen as a project in the 2018 seventh round, Mailata spent two full seasons in development but broke into Philadelphia’s starting lineup for 10 games last season.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/12/21

The restricted free agent and exclusive rights free agent tender decision deadline is fast approaching. Some teams are already making their calls in advance of March 17. We’ll keep tabs on the latest here:

RFAs

Non-tendered: 

ERFAs

Tendered:

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/5/20

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Denver Broncos

  • Released: DL Billy Winn
  • Waived: CB Horace Richardson

San Francisco 49ers

Mike McGlinchey To Undergo Knee Surgery

The 49ers will be without both their starting tackles for the foreseeable future. Mike McGlinchey will undergo arthroscopic surgery and miss between four and six weeks, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com tweets.

Joe Staley is recovering from a broken leg. Now, the 49ers’ right tackle will be on the mend as well. Daniel Brunskill, a UDFA who has played in two regular-season games, will take over at right tackle. Brunskill and sixth-round rookie Justin Skule will be San Francisco’s tackle starters, though it should be expected the team will work out tackles soon. Sam Young could certainly be used as a spot starter, but the veteran represents a key swing man currently.

Staley and McGlinchey represented a top component of this year’s 49ers team, which returned all five offensive line starters. They will join Kyle Juszczyk (MCL sprain) in missing a pivotal Week 6 game against the Rams.

McGlinchey has not missed a game with the 49ers or during his three-plus seasons at Notre Dame. He stayed in Monday night’s game throughout. The 49ers lead the NFL with 200 rushing yards per game, doing so despite Jerick McKinnon‘s season-long absence and Tevin Coleman missing two-plus games. San Francisco’s 800 yards are the team’s most through four games since 1959. The team missing more key ingredients will provide a test for the NFC’s last remaining unbeaten.