49ers Free Agents: Who Stays? Who Goes?

This post was written by Matt Hamm

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%


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Tags: 49ers Free Agents NFL 2011 San Francisco 49ers

  • Rawley

    There is no way Alex Smith should be coming back…or Troy Smith for that matter. Bring in Carson Palmer as a stopgap until Colin is ready. I wouldn’t even mind giving old man Jeff Garcia another look.

    Must Signs: Sims, Baas, Franklin, Lawson, Spikes, Goldson, and Free Agent QB and DE

    I believe Lawson, McDonald, and Goldson already signed contracts last season.
    Hopefully Heitmann returns to full strength. Lawson is a better player than Haralson, he fits as a cover guy/run stopper on the other side of Aldon Smith. Goldson is still a good young player who had to deal with an anemic pass rush last season.

    Niners also have to look for a better 3-4 End than McDonald, Evans, and Sapoaga.

  • http://ninernoise.comand49erswebzone.com Matt Hamm

    Rawley I appreciate your enthusiasm man but boy am I glad your not making the decision for the 49ers. Jeff Garcia? He was run out of the league 2 years ago. Carson Palmer would be a nice option but doesn’t come w/o risk either. Go look at Palmer’s recent stats, they look alot like Smith’s, in some cases worse.

    Also why is Goldston a must sign? We have 7 safties w/o him not including Culliver. And no way Sims is a must sign he’s an avg 35 yo backup OT. And no Lawson, McDonald and Goldson did not sign contracts last season and will be FAs of some sort this offseason depending on the CBA.

    • Rawley

      OK, Garcia is a stretch…but I would take a 40 year old Garcia or a 40 year old Palmer before Alex Smith any day. Forget the stats, Alex is an absolutely awful QB.

      Culliver should be playing CB with Clements moving to FS and Goldson moving to strong safety. In case you didn’t notice, the ENTIRE secondary was a liability in coverage because the pass rush was so poor last season. We need to do more to address the pass rush in Free Agency.

      And Sims suprisingly played well when Staley went down last season. There has to be an experienced, capable backup OT on the roster. I don’t think there will be a better bargain in FA.

  • Coma

    I fully expect Smith to be our starting QB going into next year, and that doesn’t bother me much. Other than the possibility of signing Hasselbeck for a year or two there is not a veteran I want the niners to go after. As far as the rest of the free agents go, I think Goldson is a huge liability in coverage. He makes some good hits now and then, but I don’t want to overpay him.

  • http://ninernoise.comand49erswebzone.com Matt Hamm

    Coma I agree Goldson is a major coverage liability. With 7 other safties he will probably leave unless he’s deemed a RFA by the new CBA. Smith as our starting QB scares me, I prefer Marc Bulger for a year or 2. But the vets that are avail Hasselbeck, Bulger, McNabb, Palmer etc all come with concerns and are older than Smith. This has to be Smith’s FINAL chance with the team, if u can’t get it done under Jim Harbaugh you simply can’t get it done in the NFL.

    • Rawley

      After 6 seasons, how many final chances should he get? You really can’t tell that he stinks by now?

  • David

    GARCIA is not the answer for those who think that. I seen him play in the UFL and he is not what he used to be. Why do people still think we can get PALMER? There is no way BROWN trades PLAMER, he is not going to let his players control his team. I’m not saying to play ALEX, I don’t think ALEX should play for the 49ers this season or any other season. I wouldn’t mind the 49ers going for HENNE rather JOHNSON. HENNE has more NFL experiance and with a QB coach like HARBUAGH he should only get better.

    • Rawley

      Agree with you about Alex, but I don’t care for Henne at all. He is not a West Coast style QB. Johnson hasn’t done much in the NFL. Hasselback is damaged goods. I like the idea of making a move for Ryan Fitzpatrick of Buffalo…I think he would fit well in Harbaugh’s system.

      • Coma

        Fitzpatick? Wow! Haven’t heard that one yet. I think Hasselbeck is capable of one or two more decent seasons in the NFL, especially with a good TE, great RB and solid Defense to support him (sound familiar). Plus I think that Hasselbeck would relish the role to end his career in the NFC West, playing for a former QB. He could pick up the system easier than most younger guys and help groom Kaepernick. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, as I posted earlier, I think Alex will be under center come week one (whenever that is). I am just concerned that Kaepernick will be forced to play too soon.

  • http://ninernoise.comand49erswebzone.com Matt Hamm

    Something tells me this organization will not allow Kaepernick to play too early. I think the team brings Alex Smith and another vet QB in and they will be the ones that really compete for the job. I’d like to see Bulger, Hasselbeck or Josh Johnson brought in to compete with Alex Smith. This way Kaepernick could be kept as a #3 QB this year.

  • Peter Babb

    Nice analysis, Matt. I think everyone, including Alex Smith, is fatigued with him. He can run the offence so that the rest of the team learns it and is ready when CK takes over. In that role, he’s an OK fit.

    I was thinking that it would make sense to let Franklin go, but after looking at the free agent NT list, I think he should be a priority.

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  • http://ninernoise.com Matt Hamm

    now that I’ve read that Spikes is expected back and Baas is probably the teams top priority I’m most nervous about Franklin. We really need him back, I like Soap a little but don’t really like the idea of moving him to NT. Besides that just leaves another hole just shifts it to LDE.