The 49ers have gone up, down, and down in free agency over the last three days, and their roster is starting to take shape.
Yes, we still have more players to add. Below we highlight his three biggest positions needed. But with less space in the salary cap and first picks in the NFL Draft coming at the end of the third round, most of the major pieces may already be in place.
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Here’s a look at where we are now and where work still needs to be done, by position.
on board: Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold
departure: Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders), Josh Johnson
Incoming call: rookie
Lance is expected to be the team’s top quarterback once the OTAs begin in May, with Darnold in the backup spot, the same role Nate Sudfeld did last spring. Things will get even more complicated at the end of the summer, but it seems likely that he’ll need a certain amount of preparation before he takes over the role of No. 2 from Darnold or the role of No. 1 from Lance. I mean, as much as everyone likes to get heated and be plagued by quarterback controversy, the topic will probably remain up for debate until September.
What about the fourth quarterback? It is possible. Purdy didn’t do much work last spring as Lance and Sudfeld devoured most of the practice snaps. But he did well in training camp and preseason. A rookie signed late in the draft or post-draft can fill the role in the offseason and then start the season on a practice team. Active roster? If everyone is healthy, the 49ers can carry his three quarterbacks for the first time in years.
49ers bolster QB room with Sam Darnold, who they’ve been eyeing for years
on board: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Pryce, Kyle Jusik (fullback)
departure: Tevin Coleman
Incoming call: undrafted rookie
The position looks as stable as it has in the years following the McCaffrey acquisition and Mason’s promising rookie season. If the 49ers spent his third-round pick on a running back for his third straight season, there would be a collective freakout from the fanbase. With Bobby Turner and Anthony Lynn coaching and scouting, the team’s best strategy may be to bring in runners post-draft… all of them still in the league. Coleman could also play during the season if he has an injury problem.
on board: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (Tender), Ray-Ray McCloud III, Danny Gray, Tay Martin, Dazz Newsome
departure: Willie Snead IV
Incoming call: Rookie, budget veteran
The 49ers are left with only five receivers on their 53-man roster for most of the 2022 season, and if healthy, those same five receivers could be the only active roster members this season. The draft is deep in wide receivers, and the team already appears to be looking to replace McLeod, who will serve as the team’s returnee and will be signed by 2023. The 49ers typically have 11 or 12 picks in the 90-man offseason. Carries the receiver. Roster. Currently there are seven. Expect them to at least draft him one wideout and then add more.
on board: George Kittle, Charlie Warner
departure: Tyler Croft, Ross Dwelly, Jordan Matthews
Incoming call: Rookie, budget free agent
The 49ers kept four tight ends on an active roster last season, but rarely wore uniforms at the same time. Look for him to add one tight his end to what the 49ers have been hailed as the best draft in a while at this position. Croft, Dwelly or some combination of Matthews could also return to the mix for minimum wage deals this offseason. Croft spent most of last season as the team’s number two tight end.
on board: Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaron Moore, Nick Zacheri, Jason Poe, Keith Ismael, Leroy Watson, Alfredo Gutierrez
departure: Mike McGrinchy (Broncos), Daniel Brunskill (Titans)
Incoming call: rookie or free agent
The 49ers seem fine inside the line. Brendel, Zacheli and Ismael, who spent most of last season in practice, are the centers, while Banks, Barford, Poe, Zacheli and Ismael are guards. But his spot on tackle is tight and the team can bear bringing in a veteran. Or maybe the 49ers will put together some of his 11 draft picks to get quality tackles on his second day of the draft. One person to watch out for this offseason is Watson, a tight end-to-tackling convert who made positive progress in his transition last season.
49ers re-sign Jake Brendel, aim for needed continuity at center
line of defense
on board: Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Claryn Ferrell, Javon Kinroe, Kevin Givens, Karia Davis, Alex Barrett
departure: Samson Ebkam (Colts), Charles Omeniff (Chiefs), Hassan Ridgeway (Texans), Kelly Hyder Jr., Jordan Willis, Kemoko Turay, Maurice Hurst, TY McGill, Michael Dumfor
Incoming call: Budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers have strengthened their defensive line with Hargrave and Ferrell, but they are still outnumbered. Teams like to have him active eight defensive linemen on game days, ten on a 53-man roster, and 14 or 15 on offseason rosters. Willis and Touray could return, with the team recently discussing Willis, who is also a special teams staple. The draft, on the other hand, is deep in the defensive line, and it would be a bit of a surprise if the 49ers didn’t pick him at that position.
49ers add Javon Hargrave to further improve NFL top defense
on board: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson
departure: Azeez Al-Shaair (Titans), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
Incoming call: Budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers were expected to lose longtime No. 3 linebacker Al-Shaair, who is assigned to the Everydown role in Tennessee. They did not bid on Flanigan Fowles, who was to become a restricted free agent. He is now an unrestricted free agent and could return with the league’s smallest contract. Burks is effectively his third linebacker after Al-Shaair leaves. But McCrary Ball should be fun to watch this offseason. A rookie who wasn’t drafted last year, he’s fast, aggressive, and has a good chance of making an active roster.
on board: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack III, Ambry Thomas, Quuantrezz Knight, AJ Parker
departure: Jimmy Ward (Texans), Emmanuel Moseley (Lions), Jason Berrett, Janoris Jenkins
Incoming call: mid-level free agent, rookie
After the 49ers lost Jimmy Ward and Moseley, the position was calling for another experienced veteran. I’ve brought Oliver, who is going to take over. The move should allow Lenoir to stay on the outside where he made progress in the second half of the season. The inclusion of Knight at cornerback was due to him playing it as a rookie in the final offseason, specifically playing nickel cornerback and remaining on the practice team throughout the year. He is also a safe option.
on board: Tashaun Gipson Sr., Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, Taylor Hawkins
departure: Tarvarius Moore, Donte Johnson
Incoming call: Budget veteran, rookie
The first three spots are set with Gipson, Hufanga and Odam. the 4th? There are no rumors about Moore in free agency yet. As such, the chances of him returning on a one-year deal are slim. Hawkins and Knight are certainly contenders to fill that fourth spot for him, and Knight, like Moore, has the potential to become a special team stalwart.
on board: P Mitch Wishnowsky, L S Taybor Pepper, P R McCloud
departure: K. Gould
Incoming call: High End Veteran, Budget Veteran, Newcomer
The 49ers and Gould have apparently not agreed on compensation. Still, Gould remains on the market, and as long as he does, he could come back. You could go with Plater, or someone like someone who lost the Chargers’ kicker competition between Cameron Dicker and Dustin Hopkins.The 49ers could have drafted a kicker as well. Moody is considered the frontrunner, but his potential problem is that the Lions are also looking for a kicker and may be attracted to the man who kicked them in Ann Arbor.
(Robbie Gould and Clelin Ferrell top photo by Chris Unger / Getty Images)