Every team faces roster turnover to some degree from one season to the next. In San Francisco, the losses of left guard Laken Tomlinson to free agency and possibly center Alex Mack, who was pondering retirement at the end of the season, have created uncertainty around the 49ers offensive line.
The uncertainty in the middle has led many to question the 49ers offensive line strength for 2022.
The status of Mack has provided the most prominent question mark. Kyle Shanahan was asked for an update on the veteran center following Tuesday’s OTA workout.
“I talk to him here and there, I got a good idea,” said Shanahan. “I’ve been in touch with him throughout the offseason, through his wedding, through his honeymoon. He’s in some other country right now, but I got a pretty good idea what he’s doing.”
San Francisco made no moves to shore up the center position during the draft or through free agency for the upcoming season. Given this, it appears that Mack returning for a 14th NFL season is more likely.
If Mack chooses to play, the 49ers will have four of the five offensive linemen who started last season ready to go. The only change will be at left guard.
San Francisco prepared for the eventual loss of Tomlinson last offseason when they selected Aaron Banks in the second round.
Banks suffered a shoulder injury in the first preseason game of 2021. The injury cost the rookie valuable practice time, putting him on the sidelines until the end of training camp. Although he played only a handful of offensive snaps, Banks impressed the 49er’s coaching staff.
“The way that he finished last year, he was ready to go,” Kyle Shanahan told reporters during the NFL owner’s meeting in late March. “We almost made a move and put him in, but we kind of went on a win streak and were jelling as a team. If you’d asked me halfway through if he was going to be playing, I would’ve said, ‘Yes.’ And then things started clicking for our team, and we didn’t want to mess it up. But he’s ready to go.”
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 was working with the first offensive line group during Tuesday’s practice.
Other options at center currently on the 49ers roster include Keaton Sutherland, who started two games for Miami in 2019, Daniel Brunskill, who started eight games at the position for San Francisco in 2020, and undrafted free agent rookie Dohnovan West.