49ers roster: 4 pending free agents Niners must bring back in 2022

San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ross Dwelley, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers tight end Ross Dwelley (82) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers would be wise to think about retaining these four key players who are entering contract years this season and will hit NFL free agency in 2022.

Whether it’s through an extension or a priority re-sign deal before NFL free agency kicks off in March of 2022, the San Francisco 49ers need to think hard about retaining some key players who are set to hit the open market a little less than a year from now.

If there’s good news, the Niners don’t have to think too hard about this right away. But planning on some retention now would go a long way towards alleviating some long-term roster concerns while guarding against letting some top players test the open market.

Kind of like what San Francisco had to endure before signing Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams to a record-breaking six-year, $138 million contract this offseason. It would have been nicer to tackle that before he hit the open market.

According to Over the Cap, the 49ers are projected to have $23.7 million in cap space for 2022, although that number will ebb and flow a lot between now and the start of the next NFL new year.

Regardless, it would be smart if general manager John Lynch and Co. highlighted these four players as names who need to be retained beyond this upcoming season.

49ers Re-Sign Priority No. 4: Tight End Ross Dwelley

Perhaps the Niners have given up on what seems to have been a yearly attempt to get a high-quality No. 2 tight end to pair with the All-Pro, George Kittle.

While San Francisco added two tight ends to the mix this offseason, undrafted rookie Josh Pederson and veteran MyCole Pruitt, all signs point to fourth-year pro Ross Dwelley being the guy to support Kittle.

True, the drop from Kittle to Dwelley is substantial. But that would be the case for almost any other tight end out there made available. And considering how Dwelley’s versatility, namely being able to fill in at fullback and not just as a Kittle reserve piece, the 49ers would be smart to bring Dwelley back on a new deal.

In 2020, with Kittle missing eight games, Dwelley admirably stepped up with 245 yards on 19 catches with a touchdown.

An unrestricted free agent in 2022, Dwelley won’t likely cost the Niners much at all but would be a wise re-sign addition, given his previous abilities to contribute for Kittle in the clutch.