SF 49ers: 5 free agents who won’t be back in 2021

Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers speaks to teammates Adrian Colbert #27 and Jaquiski Tartt #29 (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers speaks to teammates Adrian Colbert #27 and Jaquiski Tartt #29 (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Ahkello Witherspoon, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers have a long list of expiring contracts and limited cap resources, meaning these five free agents won’t be returning in 2021.

Even if the SF 49ers‘ 2020 campaign was a successful one, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan would have had to engineer quite the roster overhaul heading into 2020.

Currently, the Niners have an awfully long list of unrestricted free agents who’ll be testing new-contract waters once the league new year rolls around this upcoming March. And with a limited amount of cap space, Lynch and Shanahan will have to pick carefully who they want to retain moving forward.

San Francisco is projected to have $23,260,308 in cap space next season against a total cap number that could drop as low as $175 million amid the current pandemic. While the SF 49ers could restructure some current contracts or make some tough cap-casualty cuts, perhaps even quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, it doesn’t change the fact the Niners will be hard-pressed to retain all their pending free agents once NFL free agency hits next year.

Some players are easy choices — often the roster fill-in types who were meant to fill voids. But there are going to be tougher choices, too.

Here are five such players who won’t return to San Francisco next season.

Note: All contractual and cap figures courtesy of Over the Cap.

No. 5: SF 49ers Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon

The SF 49ers are in a tough position with their cornerbacks, especially considering Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley (RFA), Jason Verrett and Ahkello Witherspoon are all pegged for NFL free agency next season.

It’s likely Witherspoon, the team’s third-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, is about as good as gone next year, as he lost the starter’s job alongside Moseley to Verrett, and Witherspoon has now found himself frequenting the weekly inactive list despite this unit being without Sherman for almost the entirety of 2020.

Witherspoon has had some splash moments, yes, although the inconsistency from him has been the most frustrating thing to watch.

While it’s possible the Niners engineer some sort of team-friendly deal with Witherspoon to keep him around as a depth commodity, it’s much more likely San Francisco looks at other options, potentially in the NFL Draft or in the bargain bin for other more-established corners.

Perhaps retaining Verrett, not Witherspoon.