Who Stays, Who Goes in San Francisco?


For the San Francisco 49ers, a successful season fell short following Brock Purdy’s injuring his UCL during the NFC Championship game. For the players, it was a crushing disappointment. For some, it will prove their last action in the red and gold. As preparations begin for next season, the immediate question is which of the 49ers’ 21 unrestricted free agents will be returning to Santa Clara next season.

Limited Options

The 49ers currently have 45 players signed for 2023 with $8.3 million in cap space against their top 51 earners (Per OverTheCap.com). That figure will likely increase with contract restructures; Christian McCaffrey’s $12 million cap hit amongst those which could be renegotiated. The $17.8 million cap hit of Nick Bosa is likely to be reduced in 2023 once the 49ers seal his contract extension, with Bosa’s first year of his new contract likely to be a low base salary and a huge signing fee amortized over the length of his deal. In all likelihood, San Francisco will have around $30 million to spend in free agency and the emphasis is likely to focus on retaining rather than adding players. One-by-one, here is a quick guide to who might be staying put:

Jimmy Garoppolo

Kyle Shanahan has already confirmed the Jimmy Garoppolo era is over in San Francisco. Garoppolo had up’s and down’s with the 49ers, but there’s no denying he leaves with an impressive win-loss ratio and was a key player in turning the failing franchise around. Of course there will always be that overthrown pass that could have won the Super Bowl, but Garoppolo leaves with the seventh-most passing yards in franchise history. The injury uncertainty around Purdy and Trey Lance means the 49ers will need to sign a solid veteran quarterback (Andy Dalton and Jacoby Brisset seem possible), but Garoppolo can command far more than the Niners can realistically afford to pay and there will be starting jobs available on the annual quarterback carousel.

Prediction: Signs with Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Johnson

The fourth-string quarterback will be a camp arm somewhere, but it won’t be in The Bay.

Prediction: Released

Mike McGlinchey

By far the biggest call the 49ers need to make in free agency will be over former first round pick Mike McGlinchey. Since arriving in 2018, McGlinchey has locked down the start at right tackle. He has established himself as an elite run blocker, rated fifth amongst tackles last season, but he has erratic in pass protection. The 49ers pay their elite players, McGlinchey although a valuable contributor, doesn’t quite fall into that category.

Last season, a similar situation saw left guard Taken Tomlinson offered a fresh deal, but opting for a bigger contract with the New York Jets. The 49ers don’t have a natural successor on their roster and don’t have a pick in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, ruling out a plug-and-play replacement. They could switch Colton McKivitz to the right side and draft a developmental prospect, but that would be laced with danger for a team in a Super Bowl window. If the 49ers don’t re-sign McGlinchey, they would likely pay a replacement in free agency. It won’t be universally popular, but the 49ers will likely make a serious offer to McGlinchey, who has hinted he would stay on team friendly terms. McGlinchey, 28, will also be aware a shorter deal could see him cash in a second time in free agency.

Prediction: Signs three-year extension

Jake Brendel

Taking over from the retired Alex Mack, many saw center Jack Brendel as the weakest link going into the season. However, after some early struggles, Brendel improved particularly in pass protection, ranking 20th overall amongst NFL centers, per PFF ratings. Offensive lines thrive on continuity and Brendel isn’t likely to attractive lucrative offers from elsewhere, so signing him to an extension and drafting a long-term replacement seems the likeliest way forward.

Prediction: Signs two-year extension

Dan Brunskill

The versatile offensive linesman finally gets a crack at the open market. Brunskill was a starter at right guard, but lost that spot to rookie Spencer Burford last season. Brunskill still got plenty of snaps, helping to see the rookie through an uneven campaign, but the 49ers will expect a step forward from Burford next season and that will relegate Brunskill to the bench. Reliable guards with 30+ starts usually find starter-level money in free agency and Brunskill will be no exception.

Prediction: Signs elsewhere

Ross Dwelley

The undrafted tight end has stuck around in San Francisco for five years. In that time, Dwelley has played second-fiddle to George Kittle and has rarely looked better than a depth option. He won’t get premium money, but Dwelley will likely receive an offer from another team. Meanwhile, with the 49ers stacked at every other skills position, it’s likely Shanahan takes at least one tight end on Day 3 of the Draft.

Prediction: Released

Tyler Kroft

The journeyman tight end was bottom of the roster in 2022, he won’t be back in 2023.

Prediction: Released

Jimmie Ward

The 49ers’ longest-serving player is out of contract. Drafted back in 2014, Jimmie Ward has emerged as a key defensive back, despite a string of injuries. Ward missed the start of the 2022 campaign, but came back to play slot corner. Ward won a three-year, $28 million contract following Super Bowl LIV and is a current team captain. This is likely to be Ward’s last major contract and the 49ers will hope he decides to stay on team-friendly terms. However, Ward found himself moved out of his favored free safety position this season and would likely move to a team who will play him in his preferred role.

Prediction: Signs with Cincinnati Bengals

Tashaun Gipson

The former Cleveland Browns safety proved to be a bargain pick up just before Week 1 of the 2022 season. Gipson stood in for the injured Jimmie Ward and finished the season with five interceptions. He has hinted at retirement, but the 49ers will be desperate to bring Gipson back, particularly if Ward departs.

Prediction: Signs one-year extension

Emmanuel Moseley

One player almost certain to return is Emmanual Moseley. An internal success story, Moseley was originally undrafted back in 2018, but quickly established himself as a starting corner and won a two-year extension in 2020. He seemed set to land himself a major payday in this free agency class until a torn ACL ended his season in Week 5. Sticking around on a one-year deal would allow Moseley to regain full form and fitness and look for a big payday in 2024.

Prediction: Signs one-year extension

Jason Verrett

The phrase ‘injury prone’ could have been written for the luckless Jason Verrett. After a promising rookie campaign with the Los Angeles Chargers, Verrett suffered three years of injury frustration before landing with the Niners in 2019. A great second season won him a big extension, but Verrett tore his ACL in week 1 of the 2021 season and has rarely played since. Verrett proved a good free agent pickup, but it’s now time to move on.

Prediction: Released

Tarvarius Moore

Another injury-hit defensive back who sat out the 2022 season, safety Tarvarius Moore was drafted back in 2018 and has frequently flashed potential. It seems likely he returns on a cheap one-year prove it deal.

Prediction: Signs one-year extension

Azeez Al-Shaair

Linebacker Al-Shaair has proved another low cost pickup who has blossomed in the 49ers defense. Originally an undrafted free agent, Al-Shaair has established himself as a starter and has proved a consistent performer. However, the 49ers are paying major contracts to both Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, making it unlikely they can afford to pay Al-Shaair as well. There won’t be a shortage of suitors in free agency and Al-Shaair will leave with the best wishes of Niner fans.

Prediction: Signs with Houston Texans

Samson Ebukam

A free agent pickup from the Los Angeles Rams, Ebukam has proved a credible starter opposite Nick Bosa, most notably against the run. However, the 49ers already have his replacement in 2022 second-round pick Drake Jackson. Ekuban should get plenty of offers and someone is likely to pay over the odds for him. If big money doesn’t materialize, however, the 49ers would welcome Ebukam back.

Prediction: Signs with New York Jets

Jordan Willis

Willis’ career has been stop-start, but he has flashed talent in San Francisco. Last season he played just 266 snaps after missing the start of the season, but showed enough to warrant another contract. The 49ers value depth on the defensive line and keeping Willis around on a one-year deal seems mutually beneficial.

Prediction: Signs one year extension

Charles Omenihu

Omenihu has proved an excellent rotational player on the Niners defensive line, and being part of the defensive front has landed rotational players big contracts with other teams, particularly Arden Key, DJ Jones and Kerry Hyder. Omenihu could go a similar way. His recent arrest for domestic violence throws a major spanner in the works, but if cleared, Omenihu will likely get paid somewhere else.

Prediction: Re-signs with Houston Texans

Maurice Hurst

Hurst tore his bicep ahead of the 2022 season, but should be back for the new campaign. Hurst has suffered bad luck but has shown potential as a run-stuffing defender and looks a good bet to stick around on a cheap one-year deal.

Prediction: Signs one-year extension

Hassan Ridgeway

A low cost addition last offseason, Ridgeway proved a serviceable interior defender. He is unlikely to attract big bucks in free agency and may even struggle to make the final 53-man roster in San Francisco with numerous interior defenders back from injury. However, he is likely to get a fresh deal.

Prediction: Signs one-year extension

Kerry Hyder

Hyder went from journeyman to sought-after star after stepping up for the injury-hit 49ers in 2020 and recording 8.5 sacks. That led to a big contract with the Seahawks, however, he couldn’t reproduce his earlier form and was cut in Seattle to land back in San Francisco. However, last season was again disappointing and Hyder will likely move on.

Prediction: Released

Robbie Gould

The veteran Kicker was part of John Lynch’s first class of free agents back in 2017. Gould, 40, has already stated he won’t be retiring. The 49ers clearly value Gould, who they placed the franchise tag on before he signed a three-year deal. Lynch is unlikely to tag Gould this time, but he seems far more settled in California this time around. Gould has proved ultra reliable inside 50 yards and although the 49ers will want a cheaper deal this time around, Gould could be willing to stay to get a ring.

Prediction: Signs two-year extension

Taybor Pepper

Long snappers don’t command huge money and Pepper has proved a reliable one, a contract extension looks very likely.

Prediction: Signs three-year extension

Jonathan Fearby

Jonathan Fearby is a United Kingdom native. Prior to joining The Athletes Hub as a staff writer, he founded and operated Football England.

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