One year ago, the San Francisco 49ers were licking their wounds after a 4-12 campaign and turning their focus to free agency. This year, they are preparing to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. The 49ers went 13-3 this season thanks to a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and a few key additions.
San Francisco picked up a few important pieces such as linebacker Kwon Alexander, pass rusher Dee Ford and running back Tevin Coleman. The 49ers also made smart moves in re-signing Raheem Mostert to an extension, and drafting defensive end Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the first and second rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Offseason additions can make or break a team, and they certainly helped the 49ers get to the Super Bowl this year. After Feb. 2 — whatever happens, win or loss — San Francisco will again have to turn its focus to the offseason and identify key players they want to re-sign, players they want to let walk and free agents to target who will help improve the team. According to Spotrac, the 49ers will have just over $16 million in cap space this offseason, which ranks No. 26 in the league. Let’s take a look at a few upcoming free agents the 49ers may look to re-sign.
The former No. 17 overall pick out of Oregon had a career year in 2019. In 16 regular-season games, he recorded 54 combined tackles, 10 sacks and two passes defensed. He led the team in quarterback takedowns, and took a major step forward in his fifth season. The 49ers finished tied for No. 5 in the league in sacks with 48, and had one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL. Armstead also recorded a sack in each of the 49ers’ two postseason games this year.
He played opposite of Ford and Bosa, and held down that position all year long. Armstead is due for big money this offseason, but with big extensions likely heading to George Kittle and DeForest Buckner in the near future, it could be tough. The 49ers could place the franchise tag on him, but that would be pricy. Armstead’s situation is definitely one to keep an eye on, because he really could cash in on the open market.
Sanders was seemingly wasting away with the Denver Broncos, so the 49ers made a move for him this season to help bolster the offense. Bolster the offense is exactly what he did, as he recorded 36 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns in 10 regular-season games. Many will remember when he exploded against the New Orleans Saints in Week 14 for 157 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.
Sanders is someone the 49ers surely would like to bring back, but he does turn 33-years-old in March. There’s also another receiver further on down the list that the 49ers will need to make a decision on.
Ward is another former first-round pick on the defensive side of the ball who put up career numbers this season. In 13 games, he made 65 combined tackles, one sack and eight passes defensed. The 49ers signed him to a one-year contract last offseason, and they should look to keep him for at least another year. He’s had to deal with injuries, but is a versatile defender who is liked by defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Day was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but never got going in Jacksonville. He was released in the middle of the 2017 season, and claimed by the 49ers. Saleh knew Day from his time with the Jaguars, and he quickly was given playing time. He recorded 15 combined tackles and one sack in 16 regular-season games this year, and started the last two contests. Against the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, he made two combined tackles. Day is someone who could at least provide depth on the defensive line. He turns 26 this offseason, and I’m interested to see what the 49ers decide to do with him.
Like Day, Blair is someone who hasn’t put up incredible numbers, but has played well in a reserve role. He tore his ACL in Week 10, and finished the season with 21 combined tackles, a fumble recovery and three sacks — which was good enough for top-five on the team at that point in time. Blair played in all 16 games last season and recorded a career-high 36 combined tackles and 5.5 sacks. If the 49ers and Armstead can’t agree to terms on an extension or if he opts to sign with another team, I would expect the 49ers to turn their attention to re-signing Blair.
Moseley is an exclusive-rights free agent this season, which means if the 49ers extend a qualifying offer to him, he has to either sign it or sit out the entire season. Moseley only started nine games this year, but you have to be impressed with some of the numbers he put up. The former undrafted free agent made 50 combined tackles, eight passes defensed and one interception in 16 regular-season games, and made four combined tackles and one interception in the conference championship against the Green Bay Packers. The 23-year-old got the start against the Packers last Sunday and came through in a big way.
Breida is in an interesting situation. He dealt with injuries this season and only recorded two total touchdowns after scoring five last year. Breida is clearly a back who can make an impact when healthy, but you have to wonder how committed the 49ers are to him. Mostert has now burst onto the scene, in some ways just like Breida did last year, and there could be a team out there that is willing to offer him some money while the 49ers decide to move forward with Mostert, Coleman and Jerick McKinnon.
Bourne is someone who stepped up this season. The former undrafted free agent caught 30 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season, and caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings in the playoffs. He’s someone who head coach Kyle Shanahan has praised since his rookie season, and he’s definitely showed some explosiveness this year. He at least can provide depth for the receiving corps, but I think he’s capable of even more.