There are roster changes throughout the NFL each season. The San Francisco 49ers may experience quite a bit this upcoming season.
San Francisco currently has 44 players under contract for 2022. They will eventually hit 90 when training camp begins and will need to have their top 51 contracts under the $208.2 million salary cap by March 16.
There are 33 players on the 49ers 2021 roster set to become free agents, 24 of whom can sign with any team. The remaining nine are either exclusive-rights free agents or restricted free agents.
San Francisco has five players designated as Exclusive Rights Free Agents (EFRA), including Jauan Jennings, Kevin Givens, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, JaMycal Hasty and Colton McKivitz. An exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) is limited to signing the contract offered by his current team or not playing in the NFL that season. If a team decides not to submit a contract to an ERFA, it becomes an unrestricted free agent.
All five had roles with the team in 2021 and should be back with the 49ers. The offer for each one is only $895,000, a bargain considering its production.
Azeez Al-Shaair, Daniel Brunskill, Kentavius Street and Jake Brendel make up San Francisco’s four restricted free agents.
An RFA is eligible to sign with another franchise, but his current franchise has first right on any contract the player may receive on the open market. In addition, the player’s current team may receive draft pick compensation, depending on the level of contract they have offered the player, if they decide not to match the player’s free agent contract.
Draft Choice Compensation depends on the contract offer submitted by the player’s current team. Possible bids include first round ($5.562 million), second round ($3.986 million), original round ($2.54 million), and right of first refusal only ($2.433 million).
Although Al-Shaair and Brunskill each played more than 67% of the snaps in 2021, the 49ers are unlikely to use any of the public offers to keep them in the fold. Expect San Francisco to offer contracts in the $1.6 million range to retain the two along with minor deals for Street and Brendel.
Among the 24 unrestricted free agents, here are the five the 49ers should prioritize:
1. DJ Jones – Jones was a stalwart along the 49ers defensive line in 2021, especially against the run, finishing sixth with 56 tackles and second in tackles for loss with 10, all career highs.
Jones eventually got through a healthy full season, playing 550 snaps defensively in 2021, also a career high.
Based on the contract valuation on overthecap.com, Jones should be looking at a new deal of around $5.4 million for 2022. That would represent an increase of about $2 million from what Jones made this season, a total the team should be able to absorb. to keep a player they selected in the sixth round of the 2017 draft.
2. Lake Tomlinson – Tomlinson has led the 49ers offense in snaps in each of the last three seasons providing stability along the offensive line.
Overthecap.com’s projected contract valuation for Tomlinson is just over $8.9 million for 2022. This raise would be similar to Jones’s, $2.3 million over the $6.6 million Tomlinson counted against the 49ers’ cap in 2021.
San Francisco drafted offensive linemen last year, guard Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore, who can play guard or tackle. This may result in leaving Tomlinson despite his ability to be on the field consistently.
3. Jaquiski Tartt – The 49ers secondary is better with Tartt on the field, however, that’s the big question surrounding free safety. Tartt’s injury history is reminiscent of Jimmy Garoppolo’s, making him a long-term signing risk.
Tartt played 727 snaps in 2021, recording 66 tackles, including 5 for loss, all career highs.
The seven-year veteran signed a one-year deal worth $987,500 to stay with San Francisco last season. His contract valuation for 2022 is approaching just $2.7 million, a drop in the bucket for the value he provides in the back of the 49ers defense.
San Francisco may see Talanoa Hufanga as the long-term replacement.
4. Arden Key and Jordan Willis – Key and Willis were key pieces deep along San Francisco’s defensive line this season.
Key signed with San Francisco as a free agent from the Las Vegas Raiders, agreeing to a contract worth just $1.045 million.
After recording just three sacks and 26 quarterback hits over three seasons with the Silvers and Blacks, Key exploded for the 49ers. In 2021, the former LSU standout posted 6.5 sacks and 17 hits at quarterback.
His expected contract value of $3.67 is in the ballpark of what Seattle’s Kerry Hyder received in free agency last offseason. Key is five years younger than Hyder and might be worth holding on to.
San Francisco sent a 2022 sixth-round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Jordan Willis and a 2021 seventh-round pick on October 27, 2020.
Since joining the 49ers, Willis has posted 5.5 sacks in 17 games. Willis also blocked a punt against Green Bay that helped San Francisco reach the NFC Championship game.
According to overthecap.com, Willis has a contract valuation of just $1 million for 2022. A small price to pay for a key piece on the defensive line.
5. Raheem Mostert – If the 49ers could find a way to keep Mostert on a cheap deal worth less than his 2021 cap of $3.6 million, they should bring the veteran back.
Elijah Mitchell proved to be San Francisco’s running game leader this season, however, the lack of explosiveness with Mostert on the bench forced Kyle Shanahan to use Deebo Samuel extensively in the backfield during the second half of the season.
A backfield made up of Mitchell, Mostert, Trey Sermon and JaMycal Hasty would provide a good balance between speed and power while allowing Samuel to return to being a wide receiver.
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5 49ers free agents should focus on re-signing