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Why Mack could be one of 49ers' best under-the-radar moves

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Alex Mack playing for Falcons

Center Alex Mack was not going to settle for any situation to continue his playing NFL career.

Mack was selected to six Pro Bowls in 12 NFL seasons. He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2010s. He entered the offseason seeking the perfect fit as a free agent.

And he believes he found it.

"(I was) looking for a team that was competitive, and obviously there's a connection with Kyle Shanahan and the offense he runs," Mack said upon signing with the 49ers as a free agent.

Mack previously played under Shanahan for one season apiece with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons, where Shanahan served as offensive coordinator. Shanahan now enters his fifth season as 49ers head coach.

In the one season they overlapped in Atlanta, the Falcons averaged more than 33 points per game. Atlanta scored 40 or more points five times, second-most for an NFL team in a single season.

Mack, who turns 36 in November, is no longer at the top of his game. But the 49ers struggled for consistent play from the center position. Mack rates as the under-the-radar acquisition that could pay the biggest dividends for the organization in 2021.

“I’m an older player,” Mack said. “There’s no denying that. But I do feel like I play well. I think my film has been good. I felt good doing it. I think I can be great in this system.”


Mack entered the NFL in 2009 as a first-round draft pick of the Browns. While it is understandable that he might not have the same physical attributes as he did in his younger days, he is more than capable of carrying out the demands of the position while being able to excel in the mental aspects of Shanahan’s complex offense.

"It's a system that I know I do well in – that outside zone scheme,” Mack said. “It's just something that my body type – how I can move, the blocks I've done before – it's something I'm comfortable with. I know it. I'm good at it. I'm confident in it. And I know I can do it well."

The addition of Mack was needed after the 49ers did not have the services of center Weston Richburg last season. The 49ers turned to Ben Garland, Hroniss Grasu and Daniel Brunskill to fill in at center. Richburg recently announced his retirement after battling significant knee and shoulder issues.

Mack has been reliable throughout his NFL career. He appeared in all 16 games in 10 seasons. He played 14 games for the Falcons last year. The only time he missed significant time was in 2014, when he sustained a broken leg.

“I felt like I could move well. I like I was still a really good player, so I decided to come back in free agency and sign here,” Mack said.

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Mack did not have to continue to play football. He has accomplished almost everything in his career, and he has made a large amount of money in the process.

The 49ers present him an opportunity to highlight his strengths as a player while giving him one final shot at winning a Super Bowl ring.

"We have a lot of talent on this team and that's something that I got excited about,” Mack said. “I’m fired up to be able to join those guys, and I know what they bring and the energy they have and what we can do as an offense if we're all on the same page, on the field healthy (and) rolling. And that's what I want to see."

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