49ers news: Weston Richburg has ‘no timetable’ to return

Weston Richburg #58 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Weston Richburg #58 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The 49ers appear as if they’ll move on from injured center Weston Richburg, and he might not be able to physically return anyway, per a report.

One of the moves the San Francisco 49ers will likely make this offseason to free up cap space will be to part ways with veteran center Weston Richburg.

Richburg, whom the Niners inked to a lucrative five-year, $47.5 million contract back in 2018, suffered a serious knee injury late in 2019, which forced him to miss the team’s Super Bowl run that year and also led to him missing all of 2020.

As a result, San Francisco was forced to endure a revolving carousel of options at center in his absence.

So it’s no surprise the 49ers, who currently have just over $12.5 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, are likely viewing the 30-year-old Richburg as a cap-casualty candidate this offseason. And the latest report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport back up the claim:

This clearly isn’t great news, either for Richburg or the Niners, although the assumption San Francisco wanted to move on anyway doesn’t exactly change anything. But with this latest setback in Richburg’s lengthy injury recovery, it would appear as if Rapoport’s assessment about the veteran center playing “his last down in SF” is probably accurate.

If so, Richburg’s contract should be considered one of the poorer free-agent acquisitions since head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over in 2017.

Fortunately, it should be easy enough for the 49ers to move on. Richburg doesn’t have an injury guarantee worked into his deal, and the Niners can part ways with him this offseason while generating nearly $4.5 million in cap space, nearly $8 million if they can wait until after June 1. And while Richburg’s absence in 2021 wasn’t beneficial by any means, it at least forced Shanahan and Co. to push the need for a long-term option at center up the offseason priority list.

49ers options to replace Weston Richburg

There aren’t too many on-roster choices for San Francisco heading into 2021. Last year, Daniel Brunskill bumped over from right guard to center as essentially a third-string option, following another season-ending injury to Richburg’s primary backup, Ben Garland.

Brunskill struggled at center, and Garland is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. While it makes sense to consider re-signing the latter, given he’ll likely be a cheap depth piece anyway, there are other choices the 49ers could make.

One of those is Atlanta Falcons veteran center Alex Mack, who at 35 years old, might not be the longest of long-term solutions. But he does have the experience working under Shanahan when the latter was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator between 2015 and 2016.

In addition, the 2021 NFL Draft is awfully deep with quality offensive linemen, and there’s a high chance the Niners use at least a couple of their 10 projected picks to upgrade this unit.

Probably one to find an interior lineman, too.

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Regardless, it’s still a shame Richburg never quite panned out to desired expectations. When on the field, he was generally good enough to warrant the contract, but those injuries proved to be far too detrimental to his tenure in San Francisco.