This is an ongoing analysis of the 49ers’ moves and key departures this free-hand season. The legal manipulation window began Monday at 9 a.m. PT and the NFL’s new league year, which allows teams to officially sign free agents who played elsewhere in 2022, begins Wednesday.
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March 13: Ward will play safety again… but he will do so with the Texans. The NFL Network first reported that Ward, 31, will join former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans in Houston, where he is likely to partner with 2022 draft pick Jalen Pitre on the safety position. Ward, the longest-serving 49er, went into the preseason as the team’s celebrated starting protector and then suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the first four games. When he returned, Tashaun Gipson Sr. had taken his place and Ward traded to nickel cornerback, where he remained for the remainder of the season. The 49ers re-sign Gipson to a one-year deal.
March 13: A busy day for the 49ers continues with the acquisition of Darnold, the USC product entering its sixth season in the league. The former first-round pick will turn 26 next season. His career has been largely disappointing so far, but Darnold ended the 2022 season with Carolina playing his best football to date. He has escape and arm talent that has intrigued 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan in the past.
The 49ers are in fascinating territory at the quarterback position. Brock Purdy underwent shoulder surgery last week and is expected to be out for around six months, while Trey Lance is back to throwing after a second ankle surgery but is not yet technically clear to practice. So, once fully on board, Darnold will technically be the only fully erased QB on the 49ers’ roster. How’s that for a twist?
Financial details of this deal have yet to be released.
March 13th: Ridgeway, who appeared in 12 games last season before tearing a pec, has signed a one-year deal with the Texans worth up to $4 million, according to ESPN. He’s the first former 49er that new Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans has landed in a free hand. The 49ers’ interest in Ridgeway waned after they added Javon Hargrave and Kevin Givens earlier in the day.
March 13: Like many prominent 49ers before him, Garoppolo is now a raider. The quarterback signed a three-year, $67.5 million deal with Las Vegas, which is said to include around $45 million guaranteed The Athletics Jeff Howe.
Garoppolo’s signing for a solid chunk of change elsewhere will help the 49ers in the NFL’s compensatory draft pick formula for 2024. They’ve maxed out that formula for this upcoming 2023 draft with four picks coming thanks to player departures last season.
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DT Kevin Givens
March 13: A few minutes after injecting the massive Javon Hargrave into central defense, the 49ers further bolstered that part of their frontline by re-signing Givens to a one-year, $2.1 million contract. A whopping $2 million of that is guaranteed.
Givens, who has been with the 49ers since 2022, will continue to bring front-end rotational depth to the 49ers. Defensive coach Kris Kocurek loves Given’s speed. His job, like that of many other 49ers D-linemen, should now be easier with Hargrave in the mix as well.
DT Javon Hargrave
March 13: According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 49ers agreed Hargrave to a massive four-year deal worth up to $84 million with a full $40 million guarantee. This means they are the best defensive tackle on the market. Hargrave has accumulated 22 sacks over the past two seasons with the Eagles.
The 49ers will almost certainly have to reshuffle at least one existing contract to make way for Hargrave’s deal, which can’t be made official until Wednesday, the start of the new league year.
The 49ers add Javon Hargrave as the NFL’s top defense gets even better
March 13: Last month, 49ers general manager John Lynch predicted the 49ers would not be able to re-sign their starting right unless he missed his market. Well, McGlinchey didn’t miss his mark. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Broncos signed McGlinchey to a huge five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million with a over $50 million guarantee.
That works out to over $17 million annually for McGlinchey, a price well outside the 49ers’ price range — especially given the money they spent on defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Recently newly signed tackle Colton McKivitz, who signed a two-year deal for $5.8 million last week, remains the front-runner to replace McGlinchey in right tackle. The 49ers can also supplement the position with the draft.
T Mike McGlinchey, G Ben Powers agree on Broncos
S Tashaun Gipson Sr.
March 12th: The 49ers agreed to a one-year, $2.9 million contract with Gipson, according to a team source. Gipson proved an excellent addition to youngster Talanoa Hufanga after he was signed by Jimmie Ward in late August following a hamstring injury. In fact, 32-year-old Gipson played so well that the 49ers traded Ward to nickel cornerback when he returned to the lineup. With Gipson and Hufanga under contract, the 49ers appear safe and would likely want Ward, a forthcoming free agent, back if he agrees to play Nickel again this season.
With the highest-paying safes on the market poised to soon be signing $20 million annually in deals (Chargers’ Derwin James Jr. leads the way with $19 million APY), the signing of Gipson represents for less than $3 million represents tremendous potential value for the 49er. He ranked first in the missed tackle rate (2.9 percent) and second in the passer rating allowed (53.0) of all NFL safeties last season. The discount comes because Gipson turns 33 next season, so the 49ers are betting the fountain of youth he discovered this season will keep flowing into 2023. After years of struggling to pick up interceptions, the 49ers led the league with 20 picks in 2022 and an Gipson went through the team with five of them.
Colton McKivitz is back, and the 49ers have more O-Line work to do in free agency
OL Colton McKivitz
9th March: According to his agent, the team signed McKivitz to a two-year deal worth $5.8 million. With Mike McGlinchey likely to go freehand, McKivitz will be the frontrunner starting 2023 with the right tackle unless the team signs a more prominent tackle in the coming days. McKivitz, 26, was a fifth-round pick in 2020. He has competed in 28 games over the past three seasons with five starts — two in left tackle and three in right protection.
The 49ers avoided the constrained free agent negotiation process with McKivitz by agreeing terms with him prior to free agency, saving the team valuable salary cap room. The 49ers will open the legal manipulation period Monday with about $3 million in cap, but the top 51 rule should help create room while they do business. The 49ers may also undertake a number of contract restructurings to free up spending funds.
(Photo by Javon Hargrave: John Jones / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)