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Finding Free Agents: Ben Garland would be a capable short-term answer at center

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

In our 2020 iteration of Finding Free Agents, we’ll attempt to answer three questions for each player: Why would the Seahawks be interested? What would their contract look like? What is the likelihood they reach free agency? Throughout the series, we’ll be focused on specific positions of need in Seattle: Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle and EDGE.

Disaster struck the 49ers in Week 14, when starting center Weston Richburg was lost for the season with a torn patellar tendon. Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone-heavy offense depends on a mobile center, and Richburg is one of the game’s most athletic players in the middle. After Richburg’s injury, however, veteran Ben Garland entered the lineup and played well for San Francisco down the stretch, allowing just one sack per Sports Info Solutions. Garland will now ride his six-game starter stretch into unrestricted free agency, as his one-year, $805,000 deal comes to an end.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?

It seems likely that Seattle and Justin Britt are headed towards a divorce. Britt is about to enter his age-29 season and will be coming off a torn ACL. Britt has rarely played above an average level, and the Seahawks can save $8.5 million by moving on from their center. In that event, the spot will need to be filled. Ethan Pocic has long been seen as a fit at center, but it would be difficult for Seattle to commit to him there in 2020 without having seen him in ‘19, while Joey Hunt is simply overmatched against NFL defensive tackles.

Garland, soon to be 32, would provide the Seahawks with a steady presence at the position in 2020, as they transition to a new long-term solution. In his six starts with the 49ers to end 2019, he excelled in the running game and his ability to climb to the second level would be a strong fit for Seattle. Though Garland is older, he just completed only his sixth NFL season as a result of his time in the Air Force. If 2019 was any indication, he still has solid football left in him. The matter of Pocic makes Garland all the greater of a fit: he wouldn’t cost so much that the Seahawks would be married to him as starter. If Pocic proved to be a capable center, they’d be free to turn to their former second-round pick.

What would Garland’s contract look like?

Between his age and relative inexperience, Garland isn’t going to get any sort of large offer. The 31-year-old has started 15 games in his career, including postseason, and six of those starts came within the last three months. Though Garland makes sense as an option in Seattle, he may not get an offer to start anywhere. A solid comparison for what a potential contract would look like for Garland, however, is Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley. At 31, with just one full season of starts under his belt, Shipley signed a two-year extension with Arizona worth $3.25 million and guarantees through the first season. That would be an excellent contract to bring Garland in on. At best, he would offer the Seahawks an option at center for a low cost; at worst, he would provide depth across the interior (he has previously played guard) and Seattle wouldn’t be tied to him beyond the first year.

Will Garland reach free agency?

With Richburg suffering such a devastating injury so late in the season, San Francisco will likely try to bring Garland back in hopes he can start 2020 for them at center—and they may very well get an extension done before unrestricted free agency opens. There has yet to be any indication the 49ers and Garland are working on a new deal, so as of now, the veteran is headed toward free agency. If the Seahawks do in fact move on from Britt, they should be waiting for Garland when free agency opens.