Kyle Shanahan, who added veteran center Alex Mack to his Falcons offense a year ago, made a similar move Wednesday with the 49ers.
The team traded for Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah, 30, who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate this past season but who was set to be released by Baltimore because of salary-cap reasons.
“Kyle and I are firm believers that competition brings out the best in everyone,” general manager John Lynch said in a press release. “We also believe that you can never have enough good offensive linemen, and Jeremy has certainly proven to be a very talented player having earned a Pro Bowl selection last season.”
Zuttah could compete with six-year veteran Daniel Kilgore, who has been the team’s best center for the last three seasons but who has been unable to stay healthy for a full 16 games over that span. Kilgore had surgery to repair a hamstring injury last season and missed the last three contests.
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Zuttah also started 41 games at left guard early in his career when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That means he also could challenge 2016 starter Zane Beadles at that position. At minimum, his addition gives the 49ers some depth on the interior of the offensive line, which was threadbare entering free agency.
The 49ers, who have more salary-cap space than any other team, will take on Zuttah's salary, which has two years remaining with base salaries of $3.5 million each season. The teams also will swap sixth-round picks in the upcoming draft; The Ravens get pick No. 186 from the 49ers and San Francisco takes Baltimore’s pick at No. 198.
The 49ers have two picks each in the fourth-sixth rounds this year. They also have the 202nd overall pick in Round 6.
Zuttah has been a starter on the interior offensive line since 2009, first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then with the Ravens beginning in 2014. He’s started all 16 contests in five of his nine years in the NFL, including last season.
In January, new 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was then with the Chicago Bears, did an interview with Sports Illustrated in which Hoyer described what Shanahan’s offenses needed to be successful. Shanahan was Hoyer’s offensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2014.
Among the key components, Hoyer said in the interview, were a play-making receiver to play the split-end position, an additional receiver with speed and a pass-catching running back. Shanahan and the 49ers got each of those to a degree last week in free agents Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Kyle Juszczyk.
“Most of all,” the story said, “Hoyer recalls how the Browns offense crumbled after Alex Mack was injured in 2014, because Shanahan’s offense puts the ‘mike’ calls and the protections—responsibilities he had as the quarterback in New England and Houston—on the center. So Atlanta signed Mack in March.”
49ers’ draft picks
Rd. 1: No. 2 overall
Rd. 2: No. 34 overall
Rd. 3: No. 66 overall
Rd. 4: No. 109 overall
Rd. 4: No. 143 overall (compensatory pick)
Rd. 5: No. 146 overall
Rd. 5: No. 161 overall (pick acquired from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
Rd. 6: No. 198 overall (pick acquired from Baltimore in 2017 in trade for C Jeremy Zuttah)
Rd. 6: No. 202 overall (pick from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
Rd. 7: No. 219 overall (pick from Cleveland in 2015 trade for P Andy Lee)