SF 49ers: 5 most important free agents heading into 2021

San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk (44) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk (44) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /
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SF 49ers GM John Lynch
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Heading into the 2021 offseason, the SF 49ers have a plethora of free agents to attempt to re-sign. Here are the top five.

The 2020 season ended with a game that more or less epitomized the entire year for the SF 49ers, who almost beat the Seattle Seahawks only to fall in the final moments due to a turnover and just not being good enough when it counted.

And so into the offseason the team goes, with a slew of free agents for general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan to consider whether to bring back or to allow to hit the open market.

Many are players who are still under team control via the exclusive-rights free-agent designation, which means they’re players with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If the original team offers an ERFA a one-year contract at the league minimum, based on credited seasons, the ERFA cannot negotiate with other teams.

That list includes six of the SF 49ers’ free agents, among them are cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill, and wide receiver River Cracraft, all of whom featured heavily throughout the season.

Of those, Moseley and Brunskill are most likely to come back and contend for playing time on a team currently a little up against the salary cap. While both are key players, they aren’t among the top players.

Plus, if the Niners want them to stay, they’ll be back in San Francisco.

The next designation is the restricted free agent. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers (tenders) that come with refusal rights and/or draft-pick compensation.

This group makes up an even smaller number of players, with only quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Ross Dwelley, long-snapper Taybor Pepper, running back Jeff Wilson, and safety Marcell Harris on the list.

While none of these players made the top five, it’s possible Pepper and Wilson, and possibly Harris will be tendered contracts, although at what level remains to be seen. It’s most likely the SF 49ers look to improve at the backup quarterback and tight end positions.

Finally, the unrestricted free agents, who are free to negotiate and sign with any team once their existing contract expires or is terminated.

This is the longest list of free agents for San Francisco and includes 27 players who had varied impacts on the 2020 season. Many of the guys on this list have most certainly played their final games as a member of the SF 49ers, most notably running backs Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon, cornerback Richard Sherman, wide receiver Trent Taylor, and quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Others who could be back but won’t be among the most vital are wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, tight end Jordan Reed, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, and defensive end Ronald Blair, who is coming off a lost season after missing the entire year recovering from an ACL injury suffered late in 2019.

With all that in mind, let’s dive into the five most important free agents for the SF 49ers entering the 2021 offseason.