General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will have to focus on a couple of different position groups next offseason.
The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the busiest teams of this NFL offseason. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan had nearly 40 players up for free agency going into the 2021 campaign, where the salary cap will be down by roughly 8 percent.
Still, the 49ers were able to re-sign their key free agents. Veterans Trent Williams, Kyle Juszczyk, Jason Verrett, Jaquiski Tartt, Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams all inked new deals to return to the team. While Lynch and Shanahan also dipped into the open market and came to agreements with Alex Mack and Samsom Ebukam.
Oddsmakers are bullish on the 49ers’ chances to contend for a Super Bowl title in 2021. The Niners are currently tied for the second-best odds to win the NFC next season. It’s no surprise to see many in the football world are high on a 49ers squad that is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.
While it remains to be seen just how far the 49ers go next season, they will be facing another big offseason in 2022, especially when it comes to their offense. The Niners are slated to have 19 offensive players up for new deals following the 2021 campaign.
Lynch and Shanahan sent three first-rounders and a third-round selection to the Miami Dolphins in order to move up to get the No. 3 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, which they used on North Dakota State QB Trey Lance.
As things stand, the 49ers only have five picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, so they will have to rely on some of the younger players stepping up and taking over starting roles next season.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a $208.2 million salary cap ceiling for the 2022 campaign. If the cap is indeed set at that figure, it would be an increase of $25.7 million from this season. Over the Cap currently has the 49ers with a little more than $23.7 million in cap space going into the 2022 season, a figure that will change with releases and restructures.
Here are the 19 offensive players who will either be UFAs or RFAs next offseason.
QB: Josh Rosen, Nate Sudfeld (UFAs)
RB: Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Wayne Gallman (UFAs)
WR: Richie James, Travis Benjamin, Trent Sherfield, Bennie Fowler, Kevin White (UFAs)
River Cracraft, Andy Jones (RFAs)
TE: Ross Dwelley, MyCole Pruitt (UFAs)
OL: Laken Tomlinson, Tom Compton, Shon Coleman, Jake Brendal (UFAs)
Daniel Brunskill (RFA)
Rosen and Sudfeld will battle it out to see who ends up No. 3 on the QB depth chart during this month’s training camp. Both Rosen and Sudfeld are due less than $1 million in salary for next season, and even if one of them impresses Shanahan in 2021, they shouldn’t be too expensive to re-sign as a backup in 2022.
The big domino in the QB room is presumptive 2021 starter Jimmy Garoppolo, whose contract runs through next season. Garoppolo’s cap number is set to be $27 million next in 2022, but the 49ers are hoping to wipe that off the books if Lance is ready to take over the reins.
The only scenarios in which the 49ers would likely even consider bringing Garoppolo back if he leads the team to a Super Bowl victory as the starter next season or if Shanahan thinks Lance isn’t ready to be a full-time starter following his first year as a pro.
If the 49ers do move on from Jimmy G, they will be able to take advantage of having a starting QB on a rookie contract, which is a huge plus because they can spread the remaining dollars elsewhere. The money saved by releasing or trading Garoppolo will likely be shifted towards paying linebacker Fred Warner and pass-rusher Nick Bosa their market value with hefty extensions.
The running back position is also an interesting group going into 2022. The 49ers selected Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell as this year’s draft, which will help mitigate any losses they might suffer in free agency.
Mostert should be the lead back next season, and if he can perform up to expectations, he will likely command a significant increase in salary for 2022. Wilson flashed his potential and led the team in rushing yards in 2020, but he is expected to miss some time while recovering from a torn meniscus. Gallman is a seasoned pro who should get a fair share of snaps, given the fact Shanahan likes to spread the touches among his backfield.
The good news for the 49ers is that none of their upper echelon pass-catchers will be up for new deals following the 2021 campaign. George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk all have contracts for the 2022 season. But Samuel’s rookie deal expires following the 2022 campaign, and from what we have seen over his first two years as a pro, Lynch and Shanahan would be wise to set aside some funds to re-sign the South Carolina product.
James’ situation will be something to keep an eye on. He has primarily been used as a returner, but with the No. 3 wide receiver spot up for grabs, he could play himself into a decent raise if he’s able to lock up the position on the depth chart.
The remainder of the soon-to-be free agent receivers are depth pieces who the 49ers should be able to replace for relatively cheap if they move on next year.
Dwelley and Pruitt are more effective as blockers than they are as receivers. The duo’s contracts for next season only make up 1.3 percent of the 49ers’ salary cap. So it’s likely one or both could be re-signed for relatively cheap next offseason if the team wants them back.
The offensive line looks to be pretty much set for the next two seasons, except for the left guard position. Tomlinson has only missed one start over his four seasons with the 49ers. He turns 30 next February but has been a solid starter at left guard for the team during his tenure. Tomlinson’s cap hit for 2021 is a little more than $6.5 million, and he could command a raise in free agency following the season. Tomlinson and Williams give the 49ers certainty on the left side of the line, and given Tomlinson’s durability, he could be someone Lynch and Shanahan prioritize re-signing.
Coleman and Compton are decent backups who are veteran support pieces at this point of their careers and should be competing with Colton McKivitz at training camp.
Brunskill has been a pleasant surprise for the 49ers since joining the team in April of 2019. The 27-year-old AAF alum was sharp when filling in for the injured starters in 2019 and started a majority of the games at center last season. Brunskill will likely backup the durable Alex Mack at center, and if the 49ers continue to like what they see, they should tender him an offer before he can hit the open market.
The 49ers are hopeful draft picks Jaylon Moore, and Aaron Banks can develop into long-term starters, which would help with the team’s cap space both in the short-term and into the future.
Most of the 49ers’ key pieces will be in place for at least the next two years, but which players who are slated to be free agents following next season do you think will be back in 2022?