Baalke: 'We're in good shape from a cap standpoint'
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General manager Trent Baalke emphasizes the importance of the 49ers being strong up the middle.
Currently, there’s plenty of uncertainty about the team’s center position for the 2014 season.
Jonathan Goodwin, 35, who started every game the past three seasons, has not heard anything from the 49ers. He is scheduled to be a free agent, and he wants to continue his career “in the right situation or place,” he said.
Meanwhile, two other veteran centers who'll be 35 when the season begins – Chicago’s Robert Garza and Detroit’s Dominic Raiola -- recently re-signed on one-year deals with their clubs for reported base salaries of $1.5 million.
Those contracts would appear to set the market for Goodwin, who earned $2.5 million last season. The 49ers expect to have approximately $15 million of cap space before filling roster spots with re-signings or free-agent additions.
The 49ers have not publicly made their stance on Goodwin known. But they could be leaning toward getting younger at that position with Daniel Kilgore, who enters the final year of his original four-year contract.
UPDATED: The 49ers on Thursday afternoon signed Kilgore to a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season.
The 49ers could also invest a draft pick on one of the top centers to compete for the starting job. It’s something Colorado State’s Weston Richburg has considered.
“I know they have the situation, and they have a good backup from Appalachian State (Kilgore), so I understand that situation there,” Richburg said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I don’t know how it’s all going to fall in the draft, but it’s a cool thing to think about playing in San Francisco.”
Richburg (6 foot 3 3/8, 298 pounds), Arkansas’ Travis Swanson (6-5, 312) and USC’s Marcus Martin (6-3, 320) are considered the top three center prospects. Each is expected to be available from the mid-second round through the third round.
“I’ve been in a lot of different offenses,” Swanson said. “There’s a night-and-day difference. I was with Coach (Bobby) Petrino’s offense for four years and then Coach (Bret) Bielema came in and completely changed it. So I think I got the best of both worlds.”
Martin played left guard for his first two college seasons before transitioning to center. His season ended with a dislocated kneecap and had a high-ankle sprain on Nov. 30 against UCLA. He did not participate in any drills at the Combine, but said he expects to be fully recovered to take part in his pro day on March 12 at USC.