49ers free agency: David Andrews a cheaper target than Alex Mack

New England Patriots center David Andrews (60) Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots center David Andrews (60) Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers will be seeking help at center this offseason, and the Patriots’ David Andrews might be cheaper than the Falcons’ Alex Mack.

It seems almost a foregone conclusion the San Francisco 49ers will move on from oft-injured veteran center Weston Richburg this offseason in light of him missing all of 2020 with a knee injury suffered the year prior along with the latest news of him having zero timetable for a return.

Richburg doesn’t have an injury guarantee worked into his contract. If the Niners were to move on from him now, they’d generate $4.5 million in cap space and nearly $8 million in space if they could wait until after June 1, per Over the Cap.

Pretty important for a team projected to have just over $23.5 million in cap space and a plethora of other high-profile free agents needing to be re-signed.

Finding an experienced center to replace Richburg is one of those priorities. And while there are a number of likable options out there poised to hit the free-agent market, such as the Atlanta Falcons’ Alex Mack, another plausible target is New England Patriots center David Andrews.

Andrews, 28 years old, has spent the entirety of his career under head coach Bill Belichick. And while Andrews made it known he’d like to stay in New England, he did leave the door open for opportunities elsewhere.

The Patriots, with $66.5 million in cap space, can easily afford to re-sign Andrews if they want to.

If they don’t, however, San Francisco should perk up its interest.

49ers can afford the effective David Andrews

True, Mack has the benefit of already knowing the offensive system under head coach Kyle Shanahan, both having spent time together with the Falcons in 2015 and 2016. Andrews doesn’t.

But Pro Football Focus thought highly enough of the Patriots center last year to award him with a respectable 67.7 overall grade with just two sacks and 12 quarterback pressures allowed in 2020.

Assuming both Mack and Andrews are on the 49ers radar this offseason, there’s a sensible argument Andrews would be the preferred choice. For starters, he’s considerably younger than the 35-year-old Mack. And it’s reasonable to believe Andrews would come cheaper, too.

OTC’s valuation of Andrews’ 2020 play was at $2.7 million, whereas Mack’s valuation was $4.25 million.

And according to Spotrac.com’s market-value tool, Andrews would be worth a deal in the range of $7.1 million annually.

Mack doesn’t have a market value from Spotrac, so that eliminates the comparison there. But Andrews’ number is still significantly cheaper than the $11.5 million Richburg is set to receive in 2021 if he stays with San Francisco and also less than the $10.6 million Mack received in 2020 from Atlanta.

Plus, with Shanahan’s preference for experience over youth at one of his most preferred positions along the offensive line, it makes sense someone like Andrews would be favored over a would-be NFL Draft rookie right out of the gate.

The market could be interesting for Andrews, and the 49ers probably won’t want to get into the bidding war.

But someone of Andrews’ caliber should at least be on the Niners’ watch list if they indeed move on from Richburg.

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