Since the 2011 Draft has concluded some questions about the 49ers have in fact been answered. Quarterback of the future Colin Kaepernick, new pass rushing outside linebacker first round pick Aldon Smith. Wondering if the 49ers will have a scat back? Why Kendall Hunter they will!
So after this lockout mess is resolved then what’s next for the 49ers? Don’t expect this team to be huge players on the free agent market. Maybe one big name and a few others to plug some holes but don’t expect a Washington Redskins like spending spree by the team.
The biggest question surrounding the 49ers now that the draft is over is who among their current free agents will be brought back and who will be wearing opposing team’s uniforms next season? While Jim Harbaugh has let out his intentions on free agent Alex Smith in a major way the organization has been tight lipped about the others. Let’s take a look at the 49ers free agents and their chances of returning to the team.
Alex Smith-QB- Jim Harbaugh tipped his hat big time, so did Alex Smith by showing up at 49ers facilities the only opportunity he had, taking home a new playbook. Look for Smith to sign a one year deal to return to the 49ers.
Chance of returning: 95%
For a more in depth look at the Alex Smith situation: http://ninernoise.com/2011/04/29/alex-smith%e2%80%99s-in-the-building/
Troy Smith-QB-The 49ers chose not to tender the other Smith this offseason and all indications are he won’t be back with the team. This quote from coach Harbaugh sums it up best “Yeah I’ve seen Troy Smith play, our guy’s better” Harbaugh was talking about Josh Johnson his college QB at the time.
Chance of returning: 0%
Brian Westbrook-RB-Westbrook changed his website back to green and said he regularly talks to Andy Reid and would love to go back to the Eagles. The 49ers drafted running back Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State to seemingly replace Westbrook.
Chance of returning: 5%
Barry Sims-OT-Sims has filled in nicely at left tackle the last two seasons when Joe Staley went down with injuries. At 35 he is at the end of his career, still if the 49ers can’t find a better backup LT look for Sims to be brought back into the fold.
Chance of returning: 65%
David Baas-OC-Baas had a nice season at center this year when starting center Eric Heitmann went down with a broken leg. The team spent a couple of late round picks on interior lineman but do not have a successor currently on the roster. Baas having put together only one full season as a starter shouldn’t command too much on the open market and return to the 49ers.
Chance of returning: 80%
Tony Wragge- OC/OG-It doesn’t look good for Tony Wragge, the 49ers selected two interior lineman expected to inject some youth into the depth of the offensive line. Wragge’s chances dim even more if the team keeps Eric Heitmann around next season.
Chance of returning: 25%
Ray McDonald-DL-McDonald has done a nice job as an interior pass rusher on third downs and blocked a couple kicks as a 49er also. I suspect the team would like to keep him around but that will depend on what market develops for McDonald. It’s very possible a 4-3 team will see Ray as a possible full-time DE. If some team out there offers him the chance to start expect him to bolt, if not expect him to sign a moderate two to three year deal to return to the 49ers.
Chance of returning: 60%
Demetric Evans-DL-Evans was barely on the field last season and is not a special teams contributor. At age 30 expect the team to let him walk in free agency.
Chance of returning: 10%
Aubrayo Franklin-NT-Franklin along with center David Baas are arguably the teams most important free agents due to their lack of a replacement on the roster. The team was unable to secure a long term deal with him last offseason opting instead to franchise the nose tackle. The team chose not to franchise him for a second consecutive offseason due to the staggering # for tagged NT’s hovering right around $12 million per year. Franklin who is 30 years old will be looking for his first big payday on a long term deal this offseason and will play the market. Expect the 49ers to offer Franklin a contract around three years at what they deem his value however they will not over pay for Franklin and will most likely opt for another veteran nose tackle if Franklin departs.
Chance of returning: 50%
Manny Lawson-OLB-Manny’s frustration with the organization for not giving him a long term contract last offseason is well documented. Lawson while playing steady and well in coverage has not lived up to his first round billing. The team spent a first round pick on Aldon Smith, who some see him as Lawson’s replacement. Not necessarily though certainly a Smith/Lawson OLB combo is better than Smith/Parys Haralson or Smith/Ahmad Brooks. Lawson is viewed by some as a better 4-3 OLB, his situation is eerily similar to that of Calvin Pace a 2010 free agent of the Cardinals with a similar profile to Lawson’s who was rewarded with a huge payday by the Jets. I’m looking into my crystal ball and I don’t see Lawson as a 49er next season.
Chance of returning: 35%
Takeo Spikes-ILB-Spikes had a terrific year next to Patrick Willis in 2010. He and Willis have a lot of affection for one another, immediately after the 49ers week 17 win Willis began publically pleading for Spikes return. At 33 years old Spikes won’t have a huge market out there and I expect him to stay here in SF on another one year deal.
Chance of returning: 80%
Dashon Goldson-S- The case of Goldson is the hardest to predict. Many thought DG was headed for a big year in 2010, that didn’t happen. However coaches insisted that he earned very high grades from their weekly film reviews and the new regime seems to be high on him also. Goldson is represented by Drew Rosenhaus who is seen as an agent that will do anything to get his clients the big money and has never been known to give a home team discount. After the draft the team could have as much as seven safeties in camp without Goldson. Just like Lawson and Franklin I expect him to play the free agent market. This is the one case that the CBA could help the 49ers, if it is deemed in the new deal that you need more than four years of service to become an unrestricted free agent Goldson would be forced to stay with the team.
Chance of returning: 40%