Niners Live is on the scene yet again, and this time we break down: What Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah brings to the 49ers’ table.
The San Francisco 49ers recently acquired Pro-Bowl alternate center Jeremy Zuttah via trade (per Adam Schefter) with the Baltimore Ravens for the 2017 sixth round draft choice (198th overall) in exchange for the 49ers 2017 sixth round draft choice (186th overall). Zuttah, 30, who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate this past season, however, was set to be released by Baltimore because of salary-cap reasons (Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee).
Jeremy Zuttah signed a 3 year, $12.25 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. Zuttah, 30, is under contract for two more seasons, including a $3.5 million signing bonus, $6.5 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $4,083,333. In 2017, Zuttah will earn a base salary of $3.5 million. Zuttah has a cap hit of $4,607,206 while his dead money value is $2,214,412 (Spotrac).
How does this benefit both the Ravens and the 49ers?
Baltimore will move up 12 picks in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft. Trading Zuttah saves $5.8 million in salary cap space, but doing so means the Ravens need new starters at center and right tackle. For the 49ers, they now will have what General Manager John Lynch (per Matt Maiocco) feels has certainly proven to be a very talented player having earned a Pro Bowl selection last 2016 season. “Kyle and I are firm believers that competition brings out the best in everyone,” San Francisco general manager John Lynch said in a news release. “We also believe you can never have enough good offensive linemen, affording them some much-needed depth on the offensive line (ESPN.com).
So, what exactly does Jeremy Zuttah bring to the 49ers table?
Zuttah was originally drafted 83rd overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2008 NFL Draft. He was traded from Tampa Bay to the ravens in 2014 and has started in 41 games since. In 2016, the 30-year-old center graded out as the Ravens’ fifth-best offensive player and 13th-best center in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. Zuttah also brings some degree of versatility to the table playing both guard and center at numerous times in his career. With above average athleticism for his position, “He displays good instincts on the field, picking up blitzes and making the switch to the second level, taking good angles to neutralize linebackers on traps and pulls” (CBSsports.com).
On a Niners Live Side Note: The signing of Zuttah will pair him with new free agent acquisition fullback Kyle Juszczyk who was also a member of the Baltimore Ravens offensive attack in 2016.
So, what’s the Catch-22?
While he displays good strength and athleticism, at 6’4 and just 300 pounds, Zuttah is undersized for the center position. He has struggled a bit with injuries ala partially torn pectoral muscle (via Foxsports.com) and holding his own against more powerful nose tackles. These issues could very well be part of the reason why the Ravens were prepared to part ways with the nine-year veteran. I mean, it’s not every day that teams are ready to let a Pro-bowl caliber type impact player walk away. Zuttah is already in the back stages of his career, and with father time not exactly playing in his favor it appears he was no longer valued as an asset to the Ravens. Therefore, deemed a cap causality, they were looking to get younger within their interior line by committee; John Urschel and Ryan Jensen.
I leave you with this:
Kyle Shanahan has often put a premium on the center position in his offense, a priority made clear by the $45 million contract the Falcons gave to Alex Mack last year when Shanahan was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. With the 49ers recently releasing back-up center Marcus Martin and guard Andrew Tiller, bringing on Zuttah will surely add some decent depth, at the very least. Not to mention current starting center, Daniel Kilgore, has been plagued by plenty of injury concerns. He missed three games last season with a leg injury, and dealt with an ankle and broken left leg injury in 2014 and 15.
If called upon, will Zuttah fill the shoes of the all world center as aforementioned Kyle Shanahan was afforded last season with the Falcons? Probably not. Worst case scenario is he gives the 49ers much-needed quality depth and versatility along the interior line. Best case scenario? He starts over Kilgore and has a Pro-Bowl season and helps ignite the offense as an unsung hero. After all, the Ravens were all but set to release Zuttah had it not been for the 49ers stepping in as a suitable trading partner. Interesting scenario indeed. Let’s watch as this situation unfolds. And for the sake of the new 49ers regime, hopefully it will pay major dividends in the trenches.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor Niners Live.