The 49ers don’t have too many roster holes entering 2022, but the glaring need to plug the gap at center still concerns analysts over at NFL.com.
In an ideal world, veteran Pro Bowl center Alex Mack would have waited one more year before officially retiring from the league.
That would have been a much better case for the San Francisco 49ers, who nevertheless watched as Mack announced his retirement just prior to the team’s mandatory minicamp earlier this spring.
With second-year quarterback Trey Lance poised to take over starting duties in 2022, the Niners would have preferred to have experienced blockers like Mack up front. Already with a new face at left guard in second-year pro Aaron Banks, and with concerns right tackle Mike McGlinchey might not be 100 percent after tearing his quad last season, San Francisco’s offensive line is beginning to look like the shakiest unit on the entire roster heading into training camp.
Mack’s departure creates no relief.
NFL.com cites 49ers center as one of ’10 biggest holes’ still needing to be filled across the league
The 49ers are making plenty of top-10 lists out there entering the upcoming season, which is usually a good thing.
In the case of NFL.com’s recent breakdown of the 10 biggest holes remaining on team rosters this season, being in this category isn’t necessarily great news.
Actually, the Niners’ void at center came in at No. 2 on that list:
"Alex Mack’s retirement this offseason put the Niners in a tough position at the pivot. The current choices are: veteran Jake Brendel, who played just six offensive snaps last season and hasn’t started a game since 2018; Daniel Brunskill, who would move over from guard, creating another hole on the interior; rookie sixth-round pick Nick Zakelj, who played OT primarily in college; or undrafted rookie free agent Dohnovan West. The instability at center is especially concerning, given San Francisco is handing the reins over to Trey Lance this season. Importing a veteran — i.e., JC Tretter — could be the best option to plug the gap without relying on inexperience at all three interior O-line spots."
The mentioning of Tretter, who was a mainstay for the Cleveland Browns the last five years, is nothing new, and head coach Kyle Shanahan has long preferred veterans over rookies and second-year pros at this spot.
Yet Tretter remains unsigned.
In the interim, at least based on what San Francisco’s plan appears to be for now, the contingency option will be to go with Mack’s primary backup in 2021, journeyman reserve lineman Jake Brendel, who has just three regular-season starts since breaking into the league way back in 2016.
The 49ers could, feasibly, move projected starting right guard Daniel Brunskill over to center, which is something he did back in 2020 amid a rotating door there that season, yet this would effectively create an entirely new opening in his current spot.
Perhaps Shanahan and the Niners will eventually tabbed as geniuses for giving Brendel the starting nod, or the move and non-moves could ultimately backfire in the opposite direction.