49ers roster could look significantly different in 2021

Kwon Alexander #56 and Dee Ford #55 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Kwon Alexander #56 and Dee Ford #55 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The 49ers roster is likely going to experience some massive changes once 2021 rolls around.

Based off what we know about the San Francisco 49ers roster heading into 2020, the ultimate goal has to be Super Bowl or bust.

This, because head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad could potentially face some serious challenges and turnover once the upcoming season comes to a close.

It’s nothing new, of course, and the Niners already experienced some of these tough challenges during the offseason, highlighted by the March trade of Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts and letting veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders walk in NFL free agency.

Those moves were tough, yes. But the 49ers roster could experience some massive changes entering 2021.

If anything, NFL free agency will play a critical role in determining this, as the following notable players are entering contract years:

All of those players are either starters or have been starters at the NFL level recently. In addition, quarterback Nick Mullens and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley are both tabbed to be restricted free agents, and the 49ers roster would be worse without them.

Currently, according to Over the Cap, San Francisco is projected to have just over $49 million in available cap space for 2021. This doesn’t include, however, the contracts for the team’s rookie 2020 NFL Draft class, which will cut into that number a bit.

Going through the above list, it’s easy to pick two or three names who’ll likely depart via free agency in 2021. Simply put, though, the Niners don’t have the resources to re-sign the rest. So that could ultimately mean players like Sherman, Trent Williams, Coleman and Jones wind up leaving a little less than a year from now.

49ers roster extensions and new deals

Complicating the matter of who to re-sign is Kittle’s situation. According to reports, the All-Pro tight end is seeking roughly $20 million annually, which is almost double what the highest-paid tight end, the Los Angeles Chargers’ Hunter Henry, currently makes.

San Francisco wants Kittle around for a long time, yes. But finding the money to re-sign him to a lucrative deal won’t be easy. And considering what happened with Buckner, who also wanted to command a $21-plus million annual deal, it’s impossible to rule out the idea of the 49ers trading Kittle at some point next year.

If the Niners only had to consider an extension for Kittle, that would be one thing. But linebacker Fred Warner and EDGE Nick Bosa could end up making massive amounts of money in the near future, too, only putting more pressure on San Francisco to navigate its cap situation more carefully.

Other possible changes for the 49ers roster in 2021

Letting a number of well-known players go in free agency next year is just one part of the would-be solution.

A number of players could end up being cap casualties, too. Case in point, the Niners could cut EDGE Dee Ford two years into his five-year, $85 million deal and save nearly $13 million in cap space in 2021. Likewise, San Francisco could consider a similar path with veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander next year, as he’s scheduled to count for $16.5 million against the cap in 2021, although cutting him post-June 1, 2021 would clear up nearly $13.4 million with a little over $3 million in dead money.

For that scenario, at least the 2020 emergence of then-rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw could help alleviate any parting of ways the 49ers would have with Alexander.

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Either way, it’s not hard to see why it’s so important the Niners go all-in for the Super Bowl this season, recognizing the fact the 49ers roster is expected to undergo some serious changes the following year, which could completely alter just how potent the team is in coming seasons.