Analysis

San Francisco 49ers Free Agency Outlook

San Francisco 49ers Free Agency Preview

The 49ers 2021-22 season was filled with ups and downs. The team started the year 2-4 before rattling off 8 wins over the final 11 weeks of the season — including a thrilling comeback win in Week 18 to secure a spot in the playoffs. The 49ers made it all the way to the NFC Championship game before losing a heartbreaker to the Rams — the eventual Super Bowl champions. The emergence of Deebo Samuel as a runner was a major factor in the 49ers’ mid season turnaround. Deebo totaled 53 rushes for 343 yards over the final 9 weeks of the season. He also caught 77 passes for 1405 yards over the course of the season. In all, Deebo was third in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage, trailing only Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp. Entering the season, the 49ers had the 5th oldest roster in the league. 

Much has been made of Jimmy Garoppolo’s future with the team. It seems like the writing is on the wall that his time in San Francisco is over and he will be playing in a different city in 2022. Assuming his contract is not altered prior to a trade, the team will save $25,550,000 against the cap by sending him elsewhere. Although they can also save the same amount by outright releasing him prior to the new league year, they would receive no compensation by doing so and will at least explore the trade market for the 31-year-old quarterback.

Update: The 49ers are now $4,567,797 over the cap.

Here are the 49ers’ upcoming free agents:

  • OG Laken Tomlinson (UFA)
  • CB Josh Norman (UFA)
  • S Jaquiski Tartt (UFA)
  • CB K’Waun Williams (UFA)
  • DT D.J. Jones (UFA)
  • RB Jeff Wilson (UFA)
  • CB Jason Verrett (UFA)
  • OG Tom Compton (UFA)
  • RB Raheem Mostert (UFA)
  • TE Ross Dwelley (UFA)
  • LB Marcell Harris (UFA)
  • WR Mohamed Sanu (UFA)
  • S Tavon Wilson (UFA)
  • WR Travis Benjamin (UFA)
  • CB Donta Johnson (UFA)
  • DE Arden Key (UFA)
  • DT Maurice Hurst (UFA)
  • C Jake Brendel (UFA)
  • WR Richie James (UFA)
  • DE Jordan Willis (UFA)
  • RB Trenton Cannon (UFA)
  • WR Trent Sherfield (UFA)
  • S Jarrod Wilson (SFA)
  • DT Darrion Daniels (SFA)
  • WR River Cracraft (SFA)
  • OG Daniel Brunskill (RFA)
  • LB Azeez Al-Shaair (RFA)
  • DE Kentavius Street (RFA)
  • WR Jauan Jennings (ERFA)
  • RB JaMycal Hasty (ERFA)
  • LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (ERFA)
  • DT Kevin Givens (ERFA)
  • LT Colton McKivitz (ERFA)

Both of the 49ers starting Guards are currently scheduled to be free agents this offseason; Tomlinson unrestricted, Brunskill restricted. Tomlinson was the #13 ranked Guard in the NFL this past season (as graded by PFF). The 30-year-old played 100% of the 49ers’ offensive snaps and will likely command top of the market money should he hit the open market. The 49ers also have multiple starters in the defensive secondary becoming free agents. Such players include 35-year-old veteran CB Josh Norman, S Jaquiski Tartt, slot CB K’Waun Williams, and CB Jason Verrett (who was slated to be a starter before tearing his ACL in Week 1). Since all of these players will be at least 30 years old next season, there is a good chance that the 49ers look to revamp their defensive secondary via the draft and free agency. Per Over the Cap, the 49ers are currently $4,478,456 over the 2022 salary cap and will have to either release someone or restructure somebody’s contract in order to get under the cap before the start of the new league year. 

Franchise Tag 

  • OG Laken Tomlinson

The only potential franchise/transition tag candidate of the 49ers upcoming free agents is LG Laken Tomlinson. The 30-year-old guard was drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Lions and subsequently traded to the 49ers prior to the 2017 season. Tomlinson has steadily improved his play over his career and proven to be a healthy, stabilizing force on the interior offensive line – missing just 1 game in his 7 seasons in the league thus far. You don’t often see interior offensive linemen tagged; Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney are the most recent examples. According to Over the Cap, the franchise tag figure for an offensive lineman will be $16,698,000 and a transition tag will be $14,997,000. These figures would pay a guard as the highest and third highest paid (in terms of APY) in the league. While these figures may seem a bit rich for a player who has not cracked the top 10 at his position in any one season, the 49ers do not want to lose him to free agency – especially when their offensive and “run game” coordinator moved on for the open head coach position in Miami.

Update: The 49ers elected to not use their franchise tag this offseason.

49ers’ top team needs:

  1. Interior Offensive Line
  2. Cornerback
  3. Safety
  4. Wide Receiver #3
  5. Backup QB

With both offensive guards and multiple members of the defensive secondary set to become free agents these positions are of the highest priority. Also, considering C Alex Mack is 36 years old, it would be wise to explore potential successors to the 13 year vet in either the 2022 or 2023 draft. The 49ers will also look to fill the role of WR3 opposite Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, and Travis Benjamin are all set to become unrestricted free agents and Jauan Jennings will be a restricted free agent. Jennings was a major contributor to the offensive success in the final few weeks of the regular season – including a 2 touchdown performance in the team’s Week 18 comeback win in Los Angeles. As a restricted free agent, there is a better chance that Jennings is back in 2022 than any of the three veteran UFAs. Lastly, assuming Jimmy G is not on the 2022 roster, their backup QB role behind Trey Lance will need to be filled. Barring a drastic change of circumstance, Trey Lance will be the team’s starting QB. The team should look to add a veteran backup to help groom the former FCS quarterback who has only started 3 games combined between the NFL and NCAA since 2019.