The 49ers did lose some notable players in NFL free agency this season and didn’t sign others, but that probably winds up being a good idea.
It’s fairly clear what the San Francisco 49ers’ primary roster objectives were in the months following NFL free agency and weeks since the 2022 NFL Draft.
General manager John Lynch and Co. wanted to address a few key items despite the Niners boasting a playoff-caliber roster. For starters, getting help at cornerback was a must. So was reinforcing the depth at the offensive line, while adding pass-rushers has also been regularly high atop Lynch’s priority list.
In doing all that, though, San Francisco elected to bid farewell to a number of players, some of whom signed notable deals elsewhere while others remain free agents, currently.
Sometimes, it’s the deal a team doesn’t make that winds up being the smart play.
The 49ers may have liked to keep some of these particular players, yes. Others, however, it was simply in the best interest of the team to move on.
Here are five former Niners players whom San Francisco was wise to pass on this offseason.
No. 5: 49ers were right to move on from EDGE Arden Key
Hats off to 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. However he does it, grabbing cast-offs and underwhelming linemen and turning them into reclamation projects is a big part of what he does best.
In 2020, he did this with defensive end Kerry Hyder, who ended up leading the Niners with a career-best 8.5 sacks before translating that into a two-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021, albeit that contract only lasted a year before he was let go and subsequently rejoined San Francisco.
Last year, it was former Las Vegas Raiders EDGE Arden Key, who had only three sacks over the first three years of his career but managed to turn his lone year with the 49ers into a career-best 6.5-sack campaign.
That translated into a one-year, $4 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Over the Cap.
Great for Key. He earned it. And while the Niners may have liked to have him back, it surely wouldn’t have been at that price. Plus, given Kocurek’s tendency of getting the most out of back-end-of-the-roster players, finding someone else on the cheap who can replicate Key’s impact should have been the bigger priority.
Sounds like that’s San Francisco’s plan, especially with Hyder returning.