Predicting which pending free agents 49ers re-sign in 2020

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Emmanuel Sanders, 49ers

Emmanuel Sanders #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers face some challenging on-roster decisions in 2020 NFL free agency, and Niner Noise predicts which players the team elects to re-sign.

For the past few years, the San Francisco 49ers had more than enough salary cap space to both retain whatever talent they wanted to keep on their roster, as well as being able to go out on the open market to bring in additional weaponry.

Fresh off a loss in Super Bowl LIV, the Niners aren’t exactly in the same position entering 2020.

San Francisco is projected to have just shy of $30 million in available cap space, including 2019 rollover, according to Over the Cap. Approximately $8 million of that will likely be set aside for the team’s NFL Draft class later this spring, and the 49ers also have to consider future contract extensions for players like defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle.

Neither will come cheap.

Compounding the issue, the Niners have a number of key players poised to hit the open market this offseason. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are going to have some tough decisions, wanting to retain as much talent as possible without jeopardizing the team’s ability to both extend and sign other players in coming years, avoiding salary cap hell to all extents.

While there are plenty of factors and decisions yet to be played out, Niner Noise predicts which free agents the 49ers decide to bring back in 2020. And it’s a pretty big free-agent class.


Restricted and Exclusive-Rights Free Agents

Without getting overly complex in describing how restricted free agents and exclusive-rights free agents negotiate — you can read more about those terms and rules here — the basic gist is this:

  • Restricted free agents (RFAs) can sign with other teams, but the signing team typically has to offer up compensation in return to the original team if it matches with a qualifying offer.
  • Exclusive-rights free agents (ERFAs) aren’t exactly free agents, as they can negotiate only with the team owning their rights.

Running back Jeff Wilson, quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Ross Dwelley, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, offensive guard Andrew Lauderdale and offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill are all ERFAs and are all but guaranteed to remain in San Francisco to kick off 2020 training camp.

As far as RFAs go, linebacker Elijah Lee, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and running back Matt Breida fall into this category.

Lee might be on the short list, that is the Niners won’t make a big push to hold onto him, unless they see him for some solid special teams value. Bourne and Breida will be back.

What about the unrestricted free agents, though? Let’s look at those next.

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