Entering the 2014 NFL off-season the pressing questions for the 49ers have centered around Anquan Boldin, Donte Whitner, Phil Dawson and the Harbaugh/Kaepernick contract extensions. With no word from the 49ers front office about any moves, I will look at what needs the 49ers may fill via free agency.
We can certainly make a case for the need to aquire more talent at the receiver position, but I am almost certain that Anquan will return to the 49ers, as it just seems to be the best fit for everyone. Anquan will most certainly get his moneys worth from the 49ers if he returns, but I would not be shocked if the 49ers sign another less expensive wide-out like a Robert Meachem, Riley Cooper or Julian Edelman for a longer term contract. If the 49ers fail to resign Boldin in the coming weeks, expect the 49ers to make trades in hopes of moving up in the draft for a chance to grab one of the top receivers entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
Looking down the roster there are obvious needs, but here’s one that’s not so obvious, the need for a center. 35 year-old Jonathan Goodwin has most likely played his final season in red & gold. The free-agent center has performed well as a starter but the money would do much better elsewhere, as in a free-agent center. The market for free-agent centers is thin this year, so I would look to quickly pursue Browns free-agent center Alex Mack, who is emerging as one of the top players at his position.
It’s expected that Mack will test the open market, but he has also opted to give the Cleveland Browns the option to match any offer. However, with the firing of Browns head-coach Rob Cudzinski and the complete dismantling of their front office in the following weeks, it would be hard for Alex Mack to find value in Cleveland at this point in his career.
Remember the Browns failed attempt to throw the 2013 season? You know, following the trade of running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in week 2, when the Browns seemingly waived the white flag and went on an short lived but impressive 3-game win streak. Yeah, I don’t see that happening next year for the Browns, which means greener pastures lie ahead for Mack, and there would be plenty of teams in need of a player like Alex Mack, who was the No.1 overall rated center in the NFL during the 2013 season.
If I were making decisions in the front office, this one would appear to be a no-brainer. At 6’4, 311 pounds, Mack is a 2-time Pro Bowl center and 28 years old. He has started every game in his five seasons with Cleveland which shows he is durable. On top of this, he is a California native hailing from Santa Barbra and attended Cal-Berkley. Mack is likely to come with an expensive price tag, but with the 49ers needing to protect Colin Kaepernick and ensure the run game stays dominant during the years to come, the investment is well worth it in my opinion.
Mack, a former wrestling standout in high-school, would be a great fit with other trench warriors like Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. There aren’t many other big name centers available on the free-agent market this year and with back-up 49er center Daniel Kilgore being the only other center on the 49er roster, the need for a valuable free-agent center is a necessity. My guess is Mack will demand a 3-5 year contract around $5-$6m per season, with more in incentives. He will most likely look to retire wherever his next stop is, and what better place than his home state, in the City by the Bay.