NFL free agency: 5 former 49ers who are still unemployed in 2021
By Peter Panacy
NFL free agency hasn’t exactly been too kind to these former 49ers players who remain on the open market over three weeks later.
In some ways, 2021 wasn’t a good year to be a free agent.
Particularly with the NFL salary cap dropping down to $182.5 million a year after the global pandemic. While a number of players were able to cash in on lucrative deals, such as the San Francisco 49ers re-signing Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams to a record-setting six-year contract, others have either had to accept low-cost one-year offers with the hopes of a cap bounce-back in 2022 prompts a massive payday.
Yet the market has been even tougher to a number of players who haven’t found a team over three weeks after NFL free agency officially kicked off on March 17.
And not so surprisingly, perhaps, a number of former Niners players still find themselves unemployed as the league draws closer to the NFL Draft later this month.
Here are five former San Francisco players who have yet to find a home for the upcoming 2021 season.
No. 5: Running Back Jerick McKinnon
Veteran running back Jerick McKinnon unceremoniously announced he wasn’t going to return to the 49ers, which certainly didn’t do him any favors among the fanbase.
While it might have been easy to jump on his case after the Niners patiently waited two years for him to recover from a 2018 ACL tear, the reworking of his contract entering 2020 all but indicated San Francisco was going to move on this offseason anyway. Especially after the team identified a former special teams ace, Raheem Mostert, as an RB1 candidate in 2019.
Early in 2020, it appeared as if McKinnon would have a bona fide role, scoring touchdowns in each of his first four games. But even with some serious injury attrition at the position over the rest of the year, McKinnon’s use and role diminished. While he had a combined 30 carries between Weeks 9 and 10, McKinnon ended up touching the ball just 12 times thereafter.
McKinnon will turn 29 years old at the beginning of May, and the league’s recent trend not to overpay aging running backs, particularly those having suffered a serious injury in the not-so-distant past, works against his favor.
While it’s likely McKinnon could latch on to some team looking for a pass-catching running back with above-average blocking skills, don’t expect any deal to be announced until after the dust settles from the draft.