A source told ESPN earlier Wednesday that the Ravens planned to release Zuttah. After that news broke, the 49ers contacted Baltimore about a trade.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has often put a premium on the center 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.
In San Francisco, Shanahan inherited a team with veteran Daniel Kilgore penciled in as the starting center. But Kilgore has struggled with injuries, appearing in just 25 games the past three seasons, and is entering the final year of his contract. The Niners waived backup center Marcus Martin last week, leaving only converted defensive lineman Alex Balducci behind Kilgore on the depth chart.
Zuttah appeared in the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season and has some familiarity with Shanahan's offense, having played in a similar scheme under former Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in 2014.
"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 that you can never have enough good offensive linemen, and Jeremy has certainly proven to be a very talented player having earned a Pro Bowl selection last season."
It is the second time Zuttah has been traded. The Ravens acquired Zuttah in a 2014 trade with the Buccaneers, who received a 2015 fifth-round draft pick from Baltimore.
Zuttah, 30, is under contract for two more seasons, with base salaries of $3.5 million each season.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Zuttah, who is undersized for the center position, struggled with injuries and holding his own against more powerful nose tackles. He was the 13th-best center in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Ravens' best in-house replacement is John Urschel, but that has been considered a fallback option. It's a thin free-agent market for centers, with the top available being Nick Mangold. Another option is looking for athletic guards in the draft who can make the switch to center.
Zuttah is the latest veteran to be let go by Baltimore. In the first week of free agency, the Ravens have cut linebacker Elvis Dumervil, safeties Lardarius Webb and Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Shareece Wright.
Zuttah played his first six seasons with Tampa Bay, playing both guard and center, after the Buccaneers selected him in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2008 draft.
ESPN's Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.