SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After an offseason of will he or won’t he, San Francisco 49ers center Alex Mack has made a decision about his football future.
He won’t. After 13 NFL seasons, Mack announced his retirement via Twitter and in conjunction with the 49ers on Friday morning, bringing an end to a career that included seven Pro Bowl selections, three second-team All-Pro nods and a spot on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.
“After 13 seasons and 204 games for 3 teams, I have decided to hang up my cleats,” Mack wrote on Twitter. “I am so grateful to the game of football and everything it has given me. From the very start it helped shape who I am and taught me life lessons. I started to play football because it was fun and that never changed…
“I always tried to hold up my end of the bargain and never let anyone doubt my effort.”
Mack, 36, earned his final Pro Bowl appearance last season, his only year spent in San Francisco. He signed with the 49ers as a free agent in March of 2021 in a move that not only reunited him for the third time with coach Kyle Shanahan — the pair also worked together in Atlanta and Cleveland — but was something of a full-circle moment for Mack, who played at the University of California in nearby Berkeley.
At the time, Mack signed a three-year deal but made it clear that he was playing on a year-to-year basis and would evaluate whether to continue at the end of each offseason. Mack remained committed to that this offseason, leaving many wondering what he was going to do all offseason.
At the NFL owners meetings in late March, Niners general manager John Lynch expressed optimism that Mack was going to return, saying that “all signs are him coming back and being a part of us.”
Lynch’s tone changed dramatically just before the draft about a month later when he said that he would let Mack make his own announcement when he was ready.
On Thursday, Mack and the Niners agreed to a reworked contract that dropped his base salary for 2022 from $5 million to $1.12 million and from $3.35 million to $1.165 million in 2023. The move saved the 49ers more than $4 million in cap space this season, money they quickly used to sign their nine-player draft class.
On Friday, Mack made his retirement official and the 49ers released a statement thanking Mack for his contributions.
“The center position in the NFL is the heartbeat of an offense and Alex’s intellect, consistency, love for the game and professional approach made a lasting impression over the course of his 13 NFL seasons,” Lynch and Shanahan said in a statement. “Congratulations to Alex on a highly decorated NFL career and we wish him nothing but success in his post-playing career.”
Mack was originally the 21st overall pick by Cleveland in the 2009 NFL draft. He earned three Pro Bowl nods and was a second-team All-Pro once in seven seasons with the Browns before landing three Pro Bowl berths and two second-team All-Pro spots in five years with the Falcons.
The 49ers now find themselves searching for a replacement at a position Shanahan values greatly in his offense.
Internal veteran options include Jake Brendel, who has been working with the starters during the offseason program, and Daniel Brunskill, who started at right guard last season but played some center in 2020.
San Francisco also has a trio of rookies — Nick Zakelj, Dohnovan West and Jason Poe — who could factor into the mix, though Shanahan has traditionally been reluctant to play someone inexperienced at center.
Outside of the building, veteran JC Tretter is the best center on the free-agent market, though he comes with questions about a knee issue that prevented him from practicing much of last season.