SHOULD THEY STAY OR GO?
Niner Report|March 2021
49ers have long list of decisions to make with their own FAs
Craig Massei

The 49ers have a lot of work to do in 2021 free agency. And that has nothing to with the NFL’s open market. San Francisco must first take care of its own house before the league’s free agency period officially begins March 17. San Francisco entered 2021 with an astounding 43 players scheduled for some form of free agency, and the 49ers have whittled down that list over the past two months by signing seven of their restricted and exclusive rights free agents to short-term deals. But as the 49ers enter the consequential month of March, San Francisco still has 35 impending free agents on which the team must make decisions. Should they stay or go? Here, The Niner Report examines those players and analyzes to what degree the 49ers should pursue in retaining their services, placing them in categories of need to the team and estimating the likelihood each will return to San Francisco.

THE MUST KEEPERS

OT Trent Williams

The 49ers would have been in a world of hurt along their offensive line without Williams in 2020, and a similar fate could await them in 2021, making Williams the team’s top priority to sign in free agency. But it won’t be easy, because Williams is one of the NFL’s best at one of the league’s most important positions, and he can demand top dollar after a comeback season (he sat out 2019) that saw Williams earn his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl berth and grade out as the NFL’s top-ranked offensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. The 49ers agreed not to give Williams the franchise tag when he joined them last year, which hurts their chances to retain him, and an agreement on a contract extension couldn’t be reached during the season. The 49ers are willing to throw big money at Williams, but if he is serious about testing the open market, San Francisco could have difficulty competing with other buyers.

Likelihood to return: Moderate

FB Kyle Juszczyk

The ninth-year standout could be even more important to the 49ers to retain than Williams, considering all the wonderful things Juszczyk does for the team and the versatility he adds to the offense as a blocking, rushing, receiving, scoring and decoy threat. Still in his prime (he turns 30 in April) after being named a Pro Bowl starter in each of his four seasons with San Francisco, Juszczyk can command top dollar and will have other teams willing to pay it. The 49ers love Juszczyk and what he brings to the team. The only question is if he’ll take less money to return than he can get elsewhere.

Likelihood to return: Moderate

OL Daniel Brunskill

The third-year veteran continued his progress as a valuable interior lineman last season while starting all 16 games — eight each at center and right guard. Brunskill has a bright future with the 49ers and, with Brunskill an exclusive rights free agent, re-signing him should be a formality.

Likelihood to return: High

WR Kendrick Bourne

The 49ers brought back Bourne last season as a restricted free agent with a $3.259 million salary and he did not disappoint, continuing his progression as a reliable No. 3 receiver who is a threat on third downs and in the red zone. Bourne had career-high totals of 49 receptions for 667 yards last season, finishing second on the team in both categories, and that will raise his price in free agency. But Bourne’s steady veteran presence and production would have to be replaced should the 49ers fail to retain him.

Likelihood to return: Moderate

CB Emmanuel Moseley

The 49ers could have a max exodus at cornerback in March, but as a restricted free agent, Moseley is one young player at the position the 49ers should focus on retaining and continue grooming for the future. Moseley started 16 games over the past two seasons and could return as one of San Francisco’s top cornerbacks next season regardless of what the 49ers do with their other free agents at the position.

Likelihood to return: High

TE Ross Dwelley

Needing to step up as a front-line starter in place of injured All-Pro George Kittle, Dwelley did just that last season and continued his development as a solid all-around tight end. He’s a restricted free agent who deserves a raise that the 49ers should be able to fit into their salary structure.

Likelihood to return: High

THE MAYBES

SS Jaquiski Tartt

The seventh-year veteran would be in the keeper category above if the 49ers had more cap space and could bring back Tartt at market value. A versatile and athletic talent who can play either safety position, he’s one of the top players available in free agency at his position. But serious suitors could be scared off by the 28 games the injury-prone Tartt has missed over the past four seasons, which could affect his worth and allow San Francisco to bring him back at a relative bargain price.

Likelihood to return: Moderate

CB Jason Verrett

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