5 pending 49ers free agents who (probably) won't return in 2024

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99)
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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The 49ers will have some tough (and not-so-tough) decisions with regards to players hitting NFL free agency a little less than a year from now.

As long as the San Francisco 49ers have a quarterback (or quarterbacks) on cheap rookie contracts, they can afford to splurge a little bit on other players.

That said, the Niners have already been forced into some pretty tough decisions.

Case in point, San Francisco elected to let its longest-tenured player, safety Jimmie Ward, walk in NFL free agency. He was just one of a number of high-profile starting-caliber 49ers to depart the Bay Area.

Ward might have been a tough decision. Others, though, were a little easier.

As for the Niners' 2024 free-agent class? Well, it's probably safe to say these five aren't going to be returning after one final season at Levi's Stadium.

No. 5: 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw

While much of it is no fault of his own, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw has been a major disappointment ever since San Francisco traded away Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and subsequently used the first-round pick received in return to grab Kinlaw at No. 14 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Kinlaw has been plagued by injuries, appearing in just 24 out of a possible 50 regular-season games. Knee issues have been the biggest culprit, and the 49ers essentially put a time limit on Kinlaw's tenure with them by taking two measures this offseason.

First, the Niners inked former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in NFL free agency. Then, they declined to pick up Kinlaw's fifth-year option for 2024.

Barring the crazy, he won't be back with San Francisco after this season.

It's certainly the right move, considering Kinlaw's lack of field time and his mere 1.5 sacks over the first three years of his pro career.