49ers will likely have to let these 4 pending free agents walk in 2025

The Niners can't afford to pay everyone.
San Francisco 49ers defensive backs Charvarius Ward (L), Deommodore Lenoir (C) and Talanoa Hufanga (R)
San Francisco 49ers defensive backs Charvarius Ward (L), Deommodore Lenoir (C) and Talanoa Hufanga (R) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The 49ers face serious salary cap challenges in 2025, meaning these four pending free agents will likely hit the open market.

The San Francisco 49ers have been masters at navigating the challenges of an increasingly expensive roster.

Those challenges are going to become substantially more difficult in 2025, though.

Currently, the Niners are working toward what'll likely be a lucrative contract extension for wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, the latest in a long line of stars who received top-dollar deals when eligible. While no extension has been reached just yet, there are signs that one will eventually be agreed upon.

Then, of course, there's a pending extension due for quarterback Brock Purdy, a deal that could surpass $50 million per year when he's eligible to receive one in 2025.

Not taking either of those pending deals into account, Over the Cap currently lists San Francisco at $37 million over the estimated 2025 salary cap, meaning there'll need to be plenty of roster jockeying a little less than a year from now to get the team to cap compliance.

It also means the 49ers will have to likely pass on re-signing some of their top players who'll be hitting the free-agent market next offseason, including these four.

No. 4: Cornerback Charvarius Ward

The bulk of the Niners' cornerback room will hit free agency in 2025, including two of their best, Deommodore Lenoir and Charvarius Ward.

Lenoir, a nickel back, is surely the cheaper of the two options and might be much more affordable from San Francisco's standpoint, given boundary corners typically command much more money.

This'll likely price Ward, coming off a 2023 campaign in which he led the league in pass breakups (21) and secured both Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors, out of the 49ers' comfort range.

Ward already made it clear he's not willing to compromise on his value and won't come cheap, meaning the Niners may opt to let their second-round pick from the 2024 NFL Draft, Renardo Green, step into the fray as the No. 1 option on the boundary as Ward's long-term replacement.

No. 3: Running back Elijah Mitchell

San Francisco spent big bucks on extending All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey this offseason, which is a good indication that No. 2 tailback Elijah Mitchell's tenure with the team is soon coming to a close.

Mitchell, who set a franchise record for a rookie back in 2021 with 963 rush yards, has dealt with plenty of injuries since breaking into the league as a sixth-round pick, derailing hopes that he could be the next in line of late-round stars the 49ers seemingly find on a yearly basis.

The Niners also used a fourth-round pick this year on the speedy rusher out of Louisville, Isaac Guerendo, who appears poised to assume Mitchell's role when the latter hits the open market in 2025.

No. 2: Safety Talanoa Hufanga

All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga is in a similar situation as both Ward and Mitchell in that San Francisco appears to have drafted his replacement, a fourth-round selection used on Wake Forest's Malik Mustapha.

But Hufanga is also coming off a torn ACL suffered last year, which could ultimately lower his asking price into a range where the 49ers are comfortable retaining the fan-favorite defensive back.

However, the long-term hope might be for Mustapha to pair well with second-year safety Ji'Ayir Brown, who helped fill the void left by Hufanga in the middle of 2023 when the injury took place.

Should Mustapha impress early, it likely makes the Niners' decision on Hufanga that much easier, allowing them to part ways with the latter while getting both younger and cheaper.

No. 1: Left guard Aaron Banks

In 2021, San Francisco used a second-round pick on Notre Dame offensive guard Aaron Banks, who essentially redshirted his rookie year awaiting his turn to start a season later once the 49ers bade farewell to Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson.

Entering 2024, the Niners are seemingly repeating that process after using a third-round selection on Kansas' Dominick Puni, who could theoretically win the starting right guard job but is likely telegraphed to be Banks' long-term replacement on the left side of the offensive line.

Similar to cornerbacks, guards rarely command the top-dollar contracts in comparison to offensive tackles, which could make Banks an affordable re-sign option, particularly if Puni fails to impress enough during his rookie year.

That said, if Puni winds up being a quality option, San Francisco probably opts to let Banks hit the free-agent market in an effort to save cash on that front.

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