Pro Football Focus went through each NFL team to determine who is their top cut candidate this offseason. The San Francisco 49ers have two on both sides of the ball that could save the team upwards of $10 million.
PFF went with center Weston Richburg for the Niners:
Current projected cap space: $13,359,654
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $7,950,000
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $3,512,791
The best answer here is frankly QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but San Francisco appears to be running it back with him under center at least one more time. In three full seasons with the 49ers, Garoppolo has appeared in more than six games just once. Granted, the 49ers went to the Super Bowl the one season he was able to stay healthy, but Garoppolo has shown his relatively modest ceiling at this point.
Richburg has not played to the level of his contract after signing a top-of-the-market deal to join the 49ers, and Kyle Shanahan was able to plug and play other guys without too much trouble, as Richburg missed the entire 2020 campaign.
The 49ers have a ton of pending free agents, most notably fellow offensive lineman Trent Williams, who will likely look to become the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL this offseason.
The biggest drop-off I noticed when Richburg was out of the lineup these past couple of seasons was San Francisco’s inability to pick up stunts up the middle. I’d love to see the number of free rushers who came up the middle when Richburg played compared to when he was out of the lineup.
Unfortunately, Richburg has proven that he cannot be relied upon, which means it’s time for the 49ers to move on. PFF outlined how much the 49ers could save by releasing Richburg. The next question is, who replaces him?
Unrestricted free agent Alex Mack is the easiest connection as he was the center when Kyle Shanahan called plays for the Falcons offense that reached the Super Bowl. Mack is on record saying playing for Shanahan again is “very enticing.”
Ben Garland is a player the 49ers should re-sign for depth purposes. He played well in limited action, but Garland isn’t a player you want playing in extended action. Trusting a rookie to make all of the line calls and adjust to the NFL's speed on the fly is a risky proposition for the Niners.
This draft is full of centers who could come in and play right away, so if San Francisco were to go the rookie route, they could very well find a starter with either their second-round or even comp pick at the end of the third round. Is there a scenario where you sign Mack and look to draft a future center? Time will tell.