49ers roster: Extend or cut? Evaluating Niners' upcoming free agents

With the end of the season fast approaching, Niner Noise looks at the 16 upcoming free agents from the 49ers roster and whether to extend or cut them from the team for 2024.

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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Ray-Ray McCloud III, Nick Bellore
San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks / Jane Gershovich/GettyImages

49ers free agents: Offense

Sam Darnold, Quarterback ($4.5 million):

Sam Darnold was brought in to be the veteran voice in the QB room and serve as backup for Brock Purdy in 2023. He's seen a relatively large amount of mop-up duty, but his brief play in meaningful action this past week against the Arizona Cardinals was not the most encouraging.

That being said, it's way too small a sample size to take too much stock in. The 49ers have until the end of 2024 before being able to open negotiations with Purdy, so they have one more year to invest relatively heavily in a backup.

Darnold has no incentive to leave either. He's not going to be a starter in the league again, and he's not going to find a better situation than the 49ers in terms of both the weapons around him and the chance to earn a Super Bowl ring.

It's a natural fit.

Verdict: Extend for one year at $4.5 million total, $2.5 million guaranteed

Brandon Allen, Quarterback ($1,232,500):

Brandon Allen has never come close to seeing the field, which is probably a good thing. Otherwise, it'd be the quarterback revolving door all over again.

The 49ers are probably better off finding a quarterback late in the 2024 NFL Draft or an undrafted free agent (UDFA). They can scrim and save a tiny bit of money on a late-round rookie contract that way and not sacrifice much. For an idea of how much money you'd pay a late-round rookie, see the following name after this.

Verdict: Cut

Jauan Jennings, Wide Receiver ($940,000):

Jauan Jennings has done well to carve out a role for himself, he's not utilized much as the WR3 given how the 49ers run their offense, but he's always been reliable when needed.

A specialist when it comes to third-down plays, Jennings has recorded 19 receptions for 265 yards and a touchdown in 2023. His production is down, but in fairness, the Niners have built large leads for quite a few games, which have taken away quite a lot of passing downs.

Jennings won't demand a lot, so a reliable player like him is someone you need to keep around as depth becomes harder to come by. Maybe an incentive-laden deal.

Verdict: Extend for two years at $7 million total, $4 million guaranteed

Ray-Ray McCloud, Wide Receiver ($2 million):

I don't like to advocate for someone to be cut, but the harsh truth is Ray-Ray McCloud has been a non-factor for the most part both on the offense and in the return game. The 49ers could stand to either give Danny Gray a shot or find a return specialist late or as a UDFA and save about $1 million.

Verdict: Cut

Ross Dwelley, Tight End ($1.7 million):

Ross Dwelley is much loved in the locker room, but he's just not a factor in the offense with one catch for the year. The 49ers drafted two tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft for a reason, and it just isn't worth the money to keep Dwelley on.

Verdict: Cut.

Charlie Woerner, Tight End ($869,007):

Charlie Woerner is fine as a blocking tight end, but they grow on trees and can be easily replaced. The 49ers could maybe keep him on as the veteran backup since their rookie tight ends have basically redshirted this year.

Verdict: Either one year at the veteran minimum, or cut

Jon Feliciano, Guard ($2,250,000):

The 49ers found a gem in free agency when they signed Jon Feliciano, who has gone from backup guard to a valued contributor at the position. He's helped shore up the weak right side of the offensive line, with his performances standing out.

If the 49ers sign him up relatively cheap and long term, they can solve the right guard problem and look for solutions at tackle in the draft. In any case, Feliciano should be starting for the rest of 2023.

Verdict: Extend for three years at $11.5 million, $7 million guaranteed

Matt Pryor, Guard ($1.130,000):

Matt Pryor has played only 21 snaps on offense for the 49ers this season, with Pro Football Focus having him at a respectable 73.1 grade for those snaps.

You can do worse as a backup, but you can also try to squeeze those pennies down the line. A deal for 2024 before the squeeze begins wouldn't be the end of the world though, given the need for depth.

Verdict: Cut or extend for one year at $1.2 million guaranteed.