5 bubble-watch players 49ers simply can’t afford to cut in 2022

Dontae Johnson #27 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Dontae Johnson #27 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Jake Brendel, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers center Jake Brendel (64) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers bubble player No. 2: Center Jake Brendel

A year ago, San Francisco retained journeyman reserve center Jake Brendel as a primary backup to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. But Mack stayed healthy throughout all of 2021, and Brendel wasn’t needed outside of special teams duties, mostly.

Now, Mack is retiring, and there’s a massive void at center that’ll need to be filled.

Currently, the 49ers’ options to replace Mack are limited, and Brendel now stands a good chance to suddenly emerge as the starter heading into 2022.

It might be far from ideal, considering Brendel has only three regular-season starts under his belt. And while it’s feasible for the Niners to move right guard Daniel Brunskill over into Mack’s void, that would create yet another hole needing to be filled in Brunskill’s former spot.

If not Brendel, San Francisco would have to hope for other fringe players like Keaton Sutherland or undrafted free-agent addition Dohnovan West to step into the void, and that situation isn’t exactly ideal either. Especially considering head coach Kyle Shanahan prefers experienced veterans at the position over rookies.

Brendel isn’t exactly experienced, at least in terms of active gameday play, but his stay on the active roster for all of 2021 has some merit.

He might have to be kept out of necessity.