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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers ready to consider Jake Brendel, rookies at center if Alex Mack doesn’t return

Apr 30, 2022 at 6:53 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are still holding out hope that veteran Alex Mack decides to return for one more season as the team's starting center. Still, if he doesn't, the team is planning to move ahead with the options they have available, which will include taking a look at Jake Brendel as well as finding out if any of the team's recently-added rookies can hold down the position.

Mack, 36, is debating whether or not to enter retirement, even though he put together a solid performance with the 49ers last season. The 29-year-old Brendel has bounced around the league since signing with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA in 2016. He's had stints with the Dolphins, Broncos, and Ravens in addition to the Cowboys and 49ers and has played in 37 total games, 16 of those with the 49ers last season. 49ers general manager John Lynch mentioned Brendel as a possibility when asked on Saturday why the 49ers didn't select a true center in the NFL Draft.

"There's a free agent class that's coming along that might include some candidates there as well," Lynch said. "You have these needs, but we also have Jake Brendel. He's not a household name, but we have a lot of confidence in his ability."

The 49ers drafted two offensive linemen on Day 3 of the draft in Spencer Burford of Texas-San Antonio (Round 4) and Nick Zakelj of Fordham (Round 6). Burford played guard and tackle in college while Zakelj was primarily a tackle, but the 49ers will probably see if either of them can play center.

"We feel like we drafted two inside guys," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "They both played tackle in college, we feel like we drafted two inside guys, but you want to see everyone at center. Usually have one center, but you've got to have somebody else who can play it."

Another option is guard Daniel Brunskill, who has played center in the past. Plus, the 49ers are reportedly expected to add two more candidates as undrafted free agents in Jason Poe of Mercer and Dohnovan West of Arizona State. The 49ers plan on taking whatever pieces they have available and finding out what the best option is in the months ahead.

"Dan's done that, so you definitely have an option there," Shanahan said. "Just talked about Jake Brendel, who we're excited about. So keeping our fingers crossed on Mack, but we got to plan and know we can't count on it... But we do the best with our picks, and I love the guys that we did add and an O-Lineman who can play inside. You hope they can play center, but we'll find that out in camp. Usually, you pick your best eight and roll with it."

As for Mack, the 49ers were caught a little off guard by him having second thoughts over continuing his career, but they certainly understand why he's considering hanging up his cleats.

"I think it did (catch us off guard) a little bit, but it's also understandable," Shanahan said. "Football's not the easiest thing to do, no matter how much you enjoy the competition. He's up there in age, but in terms of how he looks on tape and how he was, everyone knows he can still play. Whatever's best for him and his family, and I know that's something he's trying to work with."


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