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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Does Alex Mack’s retirement set the 49ers back?

Jun 3, 2022 at 11:36 AM--

It's official. Center Alex Mack hung up the cleats today, June 2, 2022. The 13-year Pro Bowl center has played for the Cleveland Browns (2009–15), Atalanta Falcons (2016–20), and San Francisco 49ers (2021). Before Mack announced his retirement, he restructured his contract with the team, freeing up a little over $4.3 million in cap space. After news of his retirement and the restructure, the 49ers signed their entire nine-player draft class, including their second-round pick, Drake Jackson, to four-year deals.

It sounds like music to our ears but could losing Alex Mack to retirement hurt the 49ers rather than benefit them?

The 49er's current options at the center position include Jake Brendel (29), Daniel Brunskill (28), Keaton Sutherland, and Dohnovan West.

The 49ers acquired Brendel in free agency in 2020. After being signed to a one-year, $1.035 million deal, he played six offensive snaps in 2021. Brendel was the backup center, and most of his reps were with the second and third units in practice. There's no way Brendel compares to Alex Mack as far as skill set, but his chemistry with the quarterback might come into play.

Daniel Brunskill signed a one-year deal with the team for $2.433 million in 2021. Though listed as a tackle, Brunskill has lined up all over the offensive line. In 2020, he split his snaps at two positions, center and right guard. In 2020, Brunskill lined up at the center for the first time in his professional career. He had 546 snaps at the position that season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Brunskill's best-graded games in 2021 were against the Green Bay Packers (74.8) and New Orleans Saints (75.1). The addition of Mack relieved Brunskill from his role as a center. As a center, Brunskill allowed one sack and three quarterback hits. Though he serves better as an NFL guard, he could easily be a candidate for the center position in San Francisco.

Sutherland (25) will be a restricted free agent after the 2022 season. He signed a one-year deal with the 49ers for $895,000. In 2021, Sutherland played 17 offensive snaps with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 49ers didn't address the center position in the draft, but the team signed an undrafted free agent center, West, to a three-year, $2.57 million deal with $100,000 guaranteed at signing. West had a minimal third-round grade entering the 2022 NFL Draft. He is currently working with the third unit and his role for the upcoming season is unclear.

With uncertain options at the center position, Mack's retirement could stunt the growth of the 49ers. No one knows head coach Kyle Shanahan's plan. I'm sure he has one and that he planned for a possible scenario like this to happen. Could general manager John Lynch and Shanahan possibly bring in free agent JC Tretter? Or will Shanahan decide to go with someone in-house like a Brendel or a Brunskill?
  • Written by:
    Wayne Breezie is a 49ers content creator. He had his first guest appearance on Ronbosports in 2012. He began writing for a Facebook group called the League of the 49ers. Next, he began writing for Nothing But Niners in 2017. In 2018, Wayne Breezie made his debut on YouTube’s Nothing But Niners show. In 2019, he started his podcast called Nitty Gritty Niners. After putting the pen down for several years, Breezie saw an opportunity to write for 49erscap.com. His first published article was in January of 2022 with 49ersCap, and he currently writes and produces weekly podcasts.

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