Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? San Francisco 49ers Impending Free Agents Primer
Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
Over the past two offseasons, and with a trade midseason last year, John Lynch and the rest of the front office, along with coach Kyle Shanahan, have turned over the 49ers roster to a point where Joe Staley and Garrett Celek are the only remaining players from the 49ers Super Bowl roster.
This offseason they have thirteen impending free agents, and possibly more players on the roster who will not stick around due to cost saving measures or the fact that someone else with more talent or will showed them their way off the roster. Fans hear all day long how teams like to build through the draft, but this can only be done if you are building those draft picks’ talents and then signing them to free agent contracts. So, even though the compensation picks might be nice, teams really want to keep their own talent and players in building when possible.
With all that turnover the last two off seasons and two full drafts, many undrafted free agents and Lynch’s free agent signings now fill the 49ers roster. Shanahan and Lynch now own this roster. The amount of free agents kept at the end of the season will help to show how good of a job Shanahan and Lynch have done at evaluating their players thus far.
Outside of the special teams players, the 49ers do not have any free agents who would be highly sought after on the market, which will probably make the front office’s decisions a little easier. The twelve players should shake out like this. (Unless otherwise stated, the free agent is an unrestricted free agent).
Robbie Gould, K
This guy’s leg is golden (sorry, I had to). Not just his leg, but his whole person. Gould is a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. He hit 33 of 34 field goals this past season and 27 of 29 extra points. He broke the 49ers record when he hit his 27th and 28th field goals in a row against the Detroit Lions. A fan favorite and team favorite, it would be an absolute shock to not see Lynch lock Gould up as soon as possible. VERDICT: STAY
Bradley Pinion, P
If you had asked at the beginning of the season if Pinion would be resigned the answer would have been a resounding yes. Pinion has been a very consistent punter for the 49ers since they added him in 2015 to take over for long time fan favorite Andy Lee. Though Pinion’s average yardage per punt of 43.7 was actually the second best of the season, it seemed like he missedseveral punts down the stretch of the season that hurt the team’s chances of winning games. Shanahan has also brought in an extra punter the last two off seasons and it was seen as letting Pinion rest his leg, but this offseason Pinion may see a real punter competition come preseason. VERDICT: PROBABLY STAY
Kyle Nelson, LS
Nelson rounds out the entire special teams kicking group. That’s right, all three hit the open market this offseason. Nelson has done an excellent job as the 49ers long snapper since 2015. Nelson’s case is a little harder with the fact that he has been hit with a ten game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs this past season. He will be eligible to participate in offseason activities though. Even with the suspension, solid long snappers are not the easiest players to find, and Nelson has been a good one. VERDICT: STAY
Jimmie Ward, DB
A first-round Trent Baalke holdover, Ward has always had the talent but has never been able to show it consistently on the field, either because of injuries or position changes. A Swiss army knife of sorts for the defense, Ward played in only nine games this past season, starting seven. He recorded no interceptions, one forced fumble, and 24 combined tackles. Not stellar numbers. Ward is an NFL caliber player if he could find a roster spot and stay in it. VERDICT: GO
Mark Nzeocha, OLB
Touted as a possible starting SAM linebacker, Nzeocha played a whole lot of special teams, and was good at it. On the season, he appeared in all 16 games, starting at LB for three of them, had one pass defended, one forced fumble, one sack, 23 combined tackles, with one for a loss. After spending his first two season with Dallas, this is the first season Nzeocha, his second with the 49ers, has seen much playing action. The coaching staff always seemed really high on his abilities. VERDICT: STAY
Michael Person, G
The 49ers starting right guard was originally drafted by the 49ers in the 2011 NFL draft as their second seventh round pick. After spending his rookie season inactive for all 16 games, Person spent time with the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons (with Shanahan), Kansas City Chiefs, and the Indianapolis Colts before returning to the 49ers this past offseason. Person was a part of an offensive line that showed great improvement in the run game, but still faltered mightily in the pass game. Although it is speculated that the guard position is the one offensive line position that needs improvement, Person could be seen as a player the front office could possibly let walk. VERDICT: STAY
Raheem Mostert, RB/Gunner
Mostert has been a monster on special teams his whole career. This season he also got a real opportunity to spend some time as a running back, and really shined. He reminded me a little of a Maurice Hicks running back with more explosion. In Weeks 5 through 9, Mostert carried the ball 33 times for 261 yards and his first career touchdown. Always talked about for his ability as a special teams gunner, Mostert showed that he understood Shanahan’s system, and after the early season ball control problems, Mostert showed coachability by covering up the ball constantly when given opportunities. Mostert seems to be a player Shanahan has an affinity for. VERDICT: STAY
Greg Mabin, CB
A fourth-year player, Mabin saw playing time in 13 games this season, starting one at cornerback. He was inserted for an injured Richard Sherman, and was immediately removed from the starting lineup the following week. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, Mabin has the size to play Robert Saleh’s defense, but his ability is in question. The 49ers went through a lot of defensive backs this past season, and with players like Tarvarius Moore and DJ Reed on rookie contracts and showing some promise down the stretch, Mabin is a player the team could let go, although as an exclusive rights free agent, the 49ers pretty much own his future if they choose to keep him. VERDICT: GO
Tyvis Powell, S
Powell played in seven games this past season, starting one at strong safety. In his third season, Powell is a restricted free agent, meaning the 49ers have the first right of refusal should Powell sign with another team. Powell is seen as a young talent and has spent his entire career in this system (as a rookie with the Seahawks, and the last two with the 49ers). Being an inexpensive signing, Powell will probably be brought back to compete for depth next season. VERDICT: STAY
Alfred Morris, RB
Once seen as the savior of the backfield when signed by the 49ers after Jerick McKinnon’s knee injury, Morris was relegated to spectator as Matt Breida ran away with the starting running back position, and even rookie Jeff Wilson took snaps from Morris late in the season. He was able to gain 428 yards and two touchdowns on 111 carries – making him the second leading rusher on the team. With McKinnon’s return in 2019, Mostert’s possible return, and Wilson’s emergence, if Morris is still in the NFL next season, it will not be with the 49ers. VERDICT: GO
Antone Exum, S
Exum appeared in 15 games, starting seven of them at safety. Although he showed some promise in the secondary, Exum was often times out of position. He did have one of the few interceptions on the team this year, returning it 32 yards for a touchdown, as well as one sack and 42 combined tackles on the year. Exum would probably be a cheap return player for the 49ers, but if they go sign a big name free agent safety, Exum may not have room on the roster. VERDICT: GO
Elijah Lee, LB
Lee played in every single contest this season, including starting week two and the final four weeksof the season. The last three weeks he played particularly well, with 24 tackles over those three games. Lee stepped into the starting position after Rueben Foster was let go after week 13 of the season. Signed off of the Vikings practice squad before the 2017 season, Lee is seen as a possible starter in the league next season. Since he has only accrued two seasons in the NFL, Lee, like Mabin, is an ERFA,and is unable to sign with another team unless the 49ers decide not to retain him. With the talent he showed down the stretch, he will be competing for a starting spot next season with the red and gold 49ers. VERDICT: STAY
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