Well so much for the San Francisco 49ers still being "in the hunt" for impending free agent offensive lineman Mike Iupati. The left guard has told people that he plans to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Iupati can't put pen to paper until the new league year kicks in on Tuesday, but deals are being finalized all over the league so there's no reason to suspect this one won't go through.
The report that San Francisco was still in on things as recently as Sunday night likely means the 49ers wanted Iupati more than we expected, but ultimately were unwilling to pay him what other teams were offering. The Arizona Cardinals have had a rocky offensive line for years, and though Iupati had his struggles in 2014, he's had more good seasons than bad ones.
What the Cardinals are getting: one of the best run-blockers in the league and a passable pass-blocker on his best days. He's a guy that you get signed to a long-term deal and then you just ... don't worry about the position. Fortunately, the 49ers prepared for the eventuality that Iupati would depart for greener pastures, and have some options at the left guard spot.
Brandon Thomas spent 2014 on injured reserve, which the 49ers planned for. He's got a very high ceiling and could be the favorite for the starting role, though Joe Looney should have a say in training camp. Then there's the center position, a battle that should be between Marcus Martin and Daniel Kilgore. The loser of that battle should be able to challenge Thomas and Looney for the left guard role.