Free agency: 5 mistakes SF 49ers must not make in 2021

Kyle Juszczyk #44 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Kyle Juszczyk #44 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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Trent Williams, SF 49ers
Trent Williams #71 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

John Lynch and the SF 49ers must cautiously approach NFL free agency this offseason, and these five mistakes need to be avoided.

Back in 2017 when the SF 49ers were ushering in a large-scale rebuild under then first-year general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Niners could afford to overpay for free agents and, generally speaking, make a handful of mistakes and gaffes with the assembly of their roster along the way.

After all, Lynch and Co. were flush with cap space and in need of a tremendous infusion of talent throughout the roster.

Things are awfully trickier in 2021, though, as San Francisco is facing nearly 40 pending free agents of one type or another, a dwindling salary cap potentially in the range of $183 million and an estimated $13.4 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap.

It’s not the worst situation to be in, no, but it’s not great either.

While some actions in free agency won’t generate overly great results, others could be awfully detrimental to the team’s future, both immediately and over the long run.

As such, Lynch and the front office must ensure they avoid these five NFL free agency mistakes this offseason.

No. 5: SF 49ers can’t lowball Trent Williams

Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams is going to be a highly sought-after commodity on the free-agent market. He knows it, the Niners know it and the rest of the league knows it.

Since San Francisco can’t peg the franchise tag on Williams, and there will be no shortage of suitors with more cap space for his services, there’s a good chance the SF 49ers won’t be able to retain him.

That doesn’t mean they should avoid trying, however.

Williams, 32 years old, could command a deal in the range of $18 million annually. Yet he has to understand his best chance for getting back into the playoffs won’t be by going to one of those teams boasting a plethora of cap space. And it’s possible the Niners backload a deal anyway to account for the diminished cap in 2021.

But they still need to pay him. Even if that means postponing some of the financial responsibility into 2022 and beyond.

It would be one thing for San Francisco to do everything in its power to retain Williams, only to see him walk for more money immediately. Yet it would be irresponsible to try to convince Williams to take a bargain deal just to stay with the 49ers.