49ers center Alex Mack to retire

The San Francisco 49ers will have a new center in 2022.

As first reported by Michael Silver of Bally Sports, 13-year veteran Alex Mack has chosen to retire. 

Mack started his career in Cleveland, reached the Super Bowl with Atlanta, and nearly made it back during his one season in San Francisco. 

A standout collegiately at Cal, Mack was a three-time All-Pro and was named to the Pro Bowl seven times, including his final season. 

Earlier today, ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Mack and the 49ers had agreed to a reworked contract dropping his base salary from $5 million to $1.12 million for the 2022 season, then from $3.35 million to $1.165 million in 2023.

Mack’s retirement comes exactly one year to the day of the 49ers having another starting center retire. The process was very similar as well. 

After missing all of the 2020 season due to a torn patellar tendon suffered during Week 14 of the 2019 season, the 49ers and Weston Richburg agreed to a restructured contract which created $6.875 million of salary-cap space.

Richburg eventually announced his retirement from the NFL on June 2. 

There had been questions around Mack’s status since the veteran mentioned the possibility of retirement following the 49ers loss in the NFC Championship Game. 

The question now becomes, who will be snapping the ball to Trey Lance this season?

Jake Brendel appears to be the first man up at the center position if Mack does not return. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan expressed their confidence in the career backup following the draft. 

Entering his fifth NFL season, Brendel has played 250 career offensive snaps, most of those coming during three starts with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.

Although it is still early in the offseason program, it’s notable that Brendel has been working with the first offensive line group throughout OTA practices.

Daniel Brunskill started eight games at center for San Francisco in 2020. Brunskill has been dealing with some knee tendinitis which has kept him off the field during OTA practices this offseason. Still, Kyle Shanahan expects the versatile offensive lineman to be ready to go soon. 

Other in-house candidates include Keaton Sutherland, who started two games for Miami in 2019, and undrafted free agent rookie Dohnovan West from Arizona State.

Another option for San Francisco is dipping into the free-agent market. Former Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter has been a name mentioned quite a bit regarding the 49ers should Mack retire. 

Tretter has been one of the most consistent centers over the last few seasons. Although he has not missed a game throughout his time in Cleveland, there are injury concerns. Tretter has struggled with knee injuries in recent seasons, to the point that he did not participate in practices last season. 

Despite the lack of practice time, Tretter held opponents to only a single sack over 1,039 snaps in 2021. The ability to protect Trey Lance and his knowledge of the system make Tretter an obvious target for San Francisco if the knee checks out and both sides can make the money work.

This article has 15 Comments

  1. Wish him the very best. Unfortunate the 9ers couldn’t make it to the Super Bowl–and win it–while he was on the roster.

    Next man up.

  2. Jack
    All the best to Mack and his new bride. And thank you for your coverage of the 9ers Jack.
    QUESTION: I know it’s a small sample size, but from what you’ve seen….Is Jake Brendel capable of taking the Center position and making it his, or do you think the 9ers sign a FA (like JC Tretter)?
    Appreciate it if you’ll keep us up to date on this, as it will (IMO), be factor in the RB(s), Lance’s and the 49ers success this season.

    1. We’ll get a better idea of Brendel as the offseason program moves along.

      I will say this, Brendel’s numbers from the combine, yes it was a while ago, were pretty good in the agility and lateral movement drills.

      1. Jack
        “I will say this, Brendel’s numbers from the combine, yes it was a while ago, were pretty good in the agility and lateral movement drills.”
        * 40 Yard Dash 5.01s, Bench Press 25, Vertical Jump 28″, Broad Jump 108″, 3 Cone Drill 7.31s, 20 Yd Shuttle 4.27s….
        * I agree with you on the agility and lateral movement drills! His weight however, was a concern at 289 pounds and he’s listed at 299 pounds now. (he could use some sand in his pants).
        * The knock on Brendel is, he doesn’t have the physical build to dominate the line of scrimmage and that leaves him off-balance or compensating for that in other ways that can result in penalties! (short arm length).

        * Brendel has bounced around the league a bit ever since signing with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent after going undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Cowboys released him later that year, and he eventually signed with the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad. He eventually made his way onto the active roster, spending three full seasons in Miami and even starting three games in 2018.
        Injuries hindered his time in Miami, which moved on early in 2019. Brendel subsequently signed with the Denver Broncos that year but didn’t make the regular-season roster. When the Baltimore Ravens lost veteran center Matt Skura to a season-ending injury last year, Brendel was the first player called to replace him on the roster. But that stint only lasted a few days before he was cast off back to the ranks of free agency.

        * On February 7, 2020, Brendel was signed by the San Francisco 49ers. On August 6, Brendel announced he would opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
        On August 31, 2021, Brendel was waived during final 49er roster cuts.
        On March 9, 2022, Brendel re-signed with the 49ers.

        1. With offensive line having such major question marks and with a rookie essentially at quarterback, I continue to wonder how otherwise reasonable people can suggest a possible 6-0 start for the Niners. I don’t get that at all.

  3. Mack is a man of honor. Old-time player. One grows tired of the whiney showboats out there and we have a few on our team.
    Go get Tretter. None of those typically mentioned are ready in any way. Niners have for too long ignored the center position and refused to devote a high draft pick for a standout.

    1. allie
      9ers have to move JG (and his salary), so they can resign Bosa and Deebo. Then, If they have the salary cap space, go try to sign Tretter.
      NOTE: He’s a salary cap casualty (scheduled to make $8.235 Mil. & a salary cap hit of $9.86 million in 2022. And some concerns about the health of his knee?
      If Brendel falters, and no one else (Brunskill) steps up, I look for the 9ers to try signing Tretter by the first pre season game. (signing him to a back loaded contract, with a signing bonus and incentive(s) contract).

      1. The 9ers can structure Deebo’s resigning with little effect on 2022 cap hit. David Lombardi has broken that down. I think Jack has. too. So Garoppolo’s millions are no impediment there, but keeping Garoppolo would really hurt in trying to sign a mid-season acquisition like Emmanuel Sanders in 2019

        1. Lee
          Per Spotrac, the 9ers have just $673,752 in cap space, but their situation looks even worse in effective cap space. They’re over by $708,468 in effective cap space, which is “the cap space a team will has after signing at least 51 players and their rookie class to its roster.”

          * To the assertion that “The 9ers can structure Deebo’s resigning with little effect on 2022 cap hit.”

          David Lombardi’s break down was: A) the 9ers cut or trade JG before week 1. B) Both Bosa and Deebo’s new contracts would be back loaded so their 2022 salary cap would remain the same. C) The money from JG would then “roll over to 2023 where it would be used to pay for Bosa and Deebo’s extensions!”

          1) “THAT MONEY” = The 9ers are still “OVER IN EFFECTIVE CAP SPACE” by over $708,468. So the 9ers have to restructure a players contract, or cut a player, to get under the team 2022 salary cap.
          2) If the 49ers cut Garoppolo before week 1, they will clear only $18 million in salary-cap space, as the veteran has a $7.5 million injury guarantee for 2022. There is offset language that would allow the team to get that money back “IF” Garoppolo signs a contract with a new team for the same amount or higher in 2022, but what team in their right mind is willing to pay ~$25.5 Mil for a back up QB?
          3) Deebo’s projected Market Value is ~$22 to $28 mil. Bosa’s Market Value is ~$18 to $22 Mil.
          4) Teams that may be willing to trade JG: Seattle, Houston and Carolina, but they’re not willing to pay his $25.5 Mil. salary, unless the 9ers are willing to pick up part of his salary.
          5) IMO, That leaves the 9ers in a position of NOT enough salary cap to sign either Deebo or Bosa.

          1. Geep. Thanks for your hard work. Garoppolo’s money is not needed to resign Deebo. You agree.
            I know nothing about their 2022 intentions with Bosa. Whether they would need Garoppolo’s money
            to fulfill their 2023 obligations is something else.

      2. Good information, Geep. I just felt Mack would not return and felt it 4 months ago. I have long wanted the Niners to sign a high draftee and to plan ahead. Trent with a rookie or inexperienced center makes me nervous.

        1. Tks allie……Good intuition.
          * Old sports adage: When you’re thinking about retiring, you’ve already retired. You just don’t know it yet.

  4. Lee: “Garoppolo’s money is not needed to resign Deebo. That is correct for 2022, as he is already
    signed. But he becomes a F/A in 2023.
    ** While the 9ers have all the leverage, there’s the possibility that Deebo will sit out 2022 in protest if he’s not given a new contract. (My understanding is, he’d lose a year of pay and the 9ers would still control his 2023 contract, at his 2022 salary)?**

    Jack: Could you verify the last sentence….RE Deebo’s 2023 contract?

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