Well, it’s unlikely the San Francisco 49ers were expecting that.
The news was initially reported by NFL.com reporter Field Yates, with the team confirming the player’s decision shortly after.
Recently signed 49ers OL Spencer Long has decided to retire.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 16, 2020
It’s not especially great news after the report that starting center Weston Richburg is expected to miss the team’s first six games of the 2020 season due to the fact that San Francisco will likely have to keep the former Colorado State standout on the physically-unable-to-perform list before Week 1.
However, Long was only expected to compete for a backup spot, so it’s not as if the team is in completely dire straights. Still, an unexpected and surprising development for San Francisco.
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Where the 49ers Go From Here
While Long wasn’t expected to see much playing time barring injury or mishaps in the interior portion of the offensive line, his depth of experience made him an ideal backup and a player that most expected could put in a shift if required.
In the context of the recent report about Richburg, the 49ers will now need to find another option as a backup going forward.
Veteran guard and center Ben Garland started in place of Richburg for the final six games of the 49ers’ campaign last year, doing a fairly solid job in the final three weeks of the regular-season and then in the playoffs.
But San Francisco will need to be safe rather than sorry, especially considering that Richburg’s injury will keep him out for close to half the season.
There are several free agency options available of course, but the aforementioned experience and number of starts that Long boasted was a major reason why the 49ers signed him, and it will be hard to find an option that has the same quality of resume.
Background on Long
The 6-5, 318-pound Long came into the NFL in the 2014 NFL Draft after a successful college career with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, joining Washington as the 78th overall pick in the third round.
After appearing in five games as a rookie, Long then got his first start in the 2015 season and went on to start 13 games for Washington as he took over at left guard.
The next couple seasons, Long instead switched further inward, starting 12 games at center for Washington in 2016, and then 6 games in 2017, which ended up being his final year with the team as Washington decided not to hand him a second contract and test free agency.
The New York Jets came calling, with the team signing the former Cornhusker to a four-year deal worth $28 million. However, Long only spent the 2018 season with the Jets, starting 13 games before moving on.
This leads to 2019, when the 29-year-old joined Buffalo on a three-year, $12.6 million deal that was ended by the team this offseason after Long saw gametime in 13 games, but did not record a start for the Bills.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.