The 49ers have added and lost free agents — and lost more — over the past three days, and their roster is taking shape.
Yes, players are yet to be added and we will highlight the top three need positions below. But given the low salary cap space and the first NFL draft pick at the end of the third round, it’s likely that most of the important pieces are already in place.
Best remaining available: the athleteTop 150 Free Agents
Live Updates: News, forecasts, analysis and updates
Free Agency Notes: the athlete‘s Mike Jones reviews all signings
Does the free agency work?: Rating value from 2020-2022
Here you can see position by position where things are and where there is still a need for action.
On board: Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, and Sam Darnold
Departure: Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders), Josh Johnson
Lance is considered the team’s top quarterback when the OTAs begin in May, with Darnold in the backup position, the same role Nate Sudfeld had last spring. Things will get more complicated in late summer when Purdy’s right elbow is fully healed, but we suspect he’ll need some ramp-up time before he can take on the role of Darnold #2 or Lance #1. That said, as much as everyone loves to fuss and bother about quarterback controversy, the topic will likely be moot by September.
What about a fourth quarterback? That is possible. Purdy didn’t get much work last spring as Lance and Sudfeld devoured most of the practice snaps. But he saw action in training camp and preseason. A rookie, someone who signed late in the draft or after the draft, could fill that role in the offseason and then start the season on the practice team. The active roster? If everyone is healthy, the 49ers could carry three quarterbacks for the first time in years.
The 49ers are beefing up the QB room with Sam Darnold, whom they’ve been eyeing for years
On board: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk (defenders)
Departure: Tevin Coleman
Incoming: Naughty newbie
That position looks as stable as it has in the years following McCaffrey’s takeover and Mason’s encouraging rookie season. There would be a collective fanbase freakout if the 49ers traded a third-round pick on a running back for the third straight season, and rightly so. With Bobby Turner and Anthony Lynn coaching — and scouting — the position, the team’s best strategy might be to acquire runners after the draft, as it did in previous years with Mason, Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Matt Breida was the case. All are still in the league. Coleman could also be available mid-season if there are injury issues.
On board: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (advertised), Ray-Ray McCloud III, Danny Gray, Tay Martin, Dazz Newsome
Departure: Willie Snead IV
Incoming: Beginners, budget veterans
The 49ers retained just five receivers on the 53-man roster for most of the 2022 season, and those same five, if healthy, could be the only active roster members this season as well. The draft is deep at wide receiver and the team already appears to be exploring future replacements for McCloud, who is serving as the team’s returnee and is only signed until 2023. The 49ers typically carry 11 or 12 receivers in their 90-man offseason roster. As it stands now, they have seven. Be sure to design at least one wideout and then add more.
On board: George Kittle, Charlie Worner
Departure: Tyler Kroft, Ross Dwelley, and Jordan Matthews
Incoming: Rookie, budget free agent
The 49ers kept four tight ends on the active roster last season, though they were rarely in uniform at the same time. Look for the 49ers to add a tight ending to what’s been hailed as the best draft at the position in a long time. A combination of Kroft, Dwelley or Matthews could also be back in the mix on minimum salary offers this offseason. Kroft spent most of last season as the team’s No. 2.
On board: Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Nick Zakelj, Jason Poe, Keith Ismael, Leroy Watson, Alfredo Gutierrez
Departure: Mike McGlinchey (Broncos), Daniel Brunskill (Titans)
Incoming: Beginner or free agent
The 49ers seem fine inside the line. Brendel, Zakelj and Ismael – who spent most of last season on the practice team – are the centers, while Banks, Burford, Poe, Zakelj and Ismael stand guard. However, the tackle spot is thin and the team could bear to bring in a veteran. Or maybe the 49ers will pool some of their 11 draft picks and snag a quality tackle on Day 2 of the draft. Someone to keep an eye on this offseason is Watson, a tight end-to-tackle convert who has made positive strides in that transition last season.
The 49ers re-sign Jake Brendel as they seek needed continuity at center
line of defense
On board: Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kalia Davis, Alex Barrett
Departure: Samson Ebukam (Colts), Charles Omenihu (Chiefs), Hassan Ridgeway (Texans), Kerry Hyder Jr., Jordan Willis, Kemoko Turay, Maurice Hurst, TY McGill, Michael Dwumfour
Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers have done a good job beefing up their defensive line with Hargrave and Ferrell, but they’re still short on players. The team likes to have eight defenders active on game days, 10 on the 53-man roster and 14 or 15 on the offseason roster. Willis and Turay could be possibilities for a return and the team have recently had talks about Willis, who is also a fixture on special teams. The draft, meanwhile, is deep on the defensive line, and it would be a slight surprise if the 49ers didn’t make a pick at that position.
The 49ers add Javon Hargrave as the NFL’s top defense gets even better
On board: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson
Departure: Azeez Al-Shaair (Titans), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers expected to lose Al-Shaair, their longtime No. 3 linebacker who is earmarked for an every-down role in Tennessee. They didn’t offer Flannigan-Fowles, who was slated to be a limited free agent. He will now become an unrestricted free agent and could come back with a league minimum deal. With Al-Shaair gone, Burks is the de facto No. 3 linebacker. However, McCray-Ball should be fun to watch this offseason. An undrafted rookie last year, he’s fast and aggressive and has a good chance of making the active roster.
On board: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack III, Ambry Thomas, Qwuantrezz Knight, AJ Parker
Departure: Jimmie Ward (Texans), Emmanuel Moseley (Lions), Jason Verrett, Janoris Jenkins
Incoming: Mid tier free agent, rookie
The position called out for another seasoned veteran after the 49ers lost Jimmie Ward and Moseley. So they brought in Oliver, who has appeared in 62 games for the Falcons over the past five seasons and is set to take over Jimmie Ward’s role as Nickel cornerback. The move should allow Lenoir to stay out where he was making progress late in the season. We included Knight as cornerback because he played it — Nickel cornerback in particular — as a rookie last offseason and stayed on the practice team all year. He is also an option in security.
On board: Tashaun Gipson Sr., Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, Tayler Hawkins
Departure: Tarvarius Moore, Dontae Johnson
Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie
The first three places are occupied by Gipson, Hufanga and Odum. The fourth? There hasn’t been any excitement about Moore in free agency yet and because of that there’s a slim chance he’ll return on a one-year deal. Hawkins and Knight are certainly contenders to fill that fourth spot, and Knight has the potential to be a stalwart on a special team like Moore was.
On board: P. Mitch Wishnowsky, LS Taybor Pepper, PR McCloud
Departure: K Gould
Incoming: High-end veteran, budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers and Gould are apparently at odds over compensation – hence the report earlier this month that Gould will be playing “elsewhere” this season. Still, Gould remains in the market, and as long as he does, he’s a possibility to return. For example, if he signs with the Cowboys, the 49ers could go with a less expensive veteran, someone like Eddy Piñeiro, Matt Prater, or whoever loses the Chargers’ foosball contest between Cameron Dicker and Dustin Hopkins. The 49ers could also draft a kicker. Michigan’s Jake Moody is considered a top prospect, although a potential problem with him is that the Lions are also looking for kickers and may be drawn to the guy who kicked just down the street in Ann Arbor.
(Top Photo by Robbie Gould and Clelin Ferrell: Chris Unger/Getty Images)