When the euphoria of the current season is over, the 49ers' front office will have no fewer than 15 hard business decisions to make. That’s the number of 49ers who will be free agents, from stars such as quarterback Alex Smith and cornerback Carlos Rogers to role players such as backup guard Chilo Rachal and second-string safety Reggie Smith.
Whom should the 49ers keep? Who can be sent packing? Who are definite maybes?
Following is my take on every 49ers free agent. Join in with your comments!
Note: All statistics cited are as of Week 15.
Brock, a second-year player from Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, occupies the No. 2 left cornerback spot behind Pro Bowler Carlos Rogers. With Rogers’ great season, we haven’t seen much of what Brock can do, although he posted interceptions in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks and in Week 2 versus the Dallas Cowboys.
Brock is a restricted free agent, which means the 49ers will have the right of first refusal should a suitor come calling. Let’s see if anyone shows interest, and at what price.
Brooks has been a key member of the Niners’ devastating linebacking corps this year. With 47 tackles, including six sacks, he’s anchored the outside opposite Parys Haralson. His solid play has been a big reason the 49ers have led the league in rushing defense.
Costanzo holds down the third inside linebacker spot behind Patrick Willis and Tavares Gooden, although Larry Grant has been subbing during Willis’ hamstring injury. He’s a journeyman in the true sense—two years with the Buffalo Bills, two with the Cleveland Browns and now, one year with the 49ers.
In limited action this season, he’s made 11 tackles, 10 of them solo. Nothing to scoff at, but nothing to write home about, either.
Ginn is finishing a five-year, $19.6 million dollar deal, according to Spotrac.com, the source for all contract information in this article. At $5 million a year, I suspect the 49ers wanted more than they’ve received in the pass-catching department. On returns, it’s been a different story. Ginn lit up the Seattle Seahawks’ special teams with both a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in Week 1, and has been solid all season.
I would sign Ginn again, primarily for his kick-returning ability, and for less than he commanded last time. If he gets a better offer, he can treat his agent to dinner.
Goldson came on to have a super season and make the Pro Bowl for his first time. With 64 tackles and six interceptions, he’s been money alongside strong safety Donte Whitner. He’s been worth every nickel of his $1.2 million salary, and will deserve a raise if the 49ers are smart and re-sign him to a multi-year contract.
It all depends on his ankle injury. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported in early December that Morgan was recovering ahead of schedule, and said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh considered re-signing Morgan a priority. The wide receiver spot for the 49ers hasn’t been the same since Morgan went down against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5. If he comes back strong, it should be in a 49ers uniform.
Finishing his 12th year in the league, Norris has played in only three games this year and has carried only three times in the last two seasons. Should the 49ers to re-sign him, it would no doubt be far less than the $5 million he’s received over the past three years. His playing time this year, however, suggests the Niners see little value in his services at any price.
When first-string guard Adam Snyder went down for a game-and-a-half, what was that we saw? Oh, yes, a defensive linemen running off with Chilo Rachal’s lunch. Rachal was one of the players I had in mind when I wrote earlier this season that the 49ers needed to strengthen the offensive line. Depth is critical in the trenches, and Rachal hasn’t filled his role.
What a difference a year makes. Undeniably mediocre in six seasons with the Washington Redskins, Rogers has snagged six interceptions (including one for a touchdown) and made the Pro Bowl. He has proved the worth of his $2 million-plus salary. The Niners should sign him and give him a raise.
Speaking of a different kind of year—well, enough has been written and said already. Smith is more than competent and learning everyday from ex-QB Harbaugh. His contract this year was worth $4.9 million. With Andrew Luck and possibly Robert Griffin III driving up quarterback salaries next season, Smith may be the beneficiary not only of a good performance but also a rising tide.
It’s been a quiet year for Smith, who’s averaged one tackle a game and made one interception while backing up Donte Whitner. It’s been far different, in fact, from last season, when he started seven games and registered 42 tackles.
Smith just hasn’t done much in his four years with the club (including seven tackles combined over 13 games in his first two years). For whatever reason, the promise the 49ers saw when they signed him out of Oklahoma hasn’t materialized.
For years, Snyder has been solid at right guard. When he’s been injured, he’s been missed. At 6’6” and 325 pounds, he’s played his entire seven-year career with the 49ers. He’s finishing a four-year, $10.5 million dollar contract. The Niners should give him another one just like it.
Spillman is the third-string strongside safety behind Whitner and Reggie Smith. In his four years in the NFL, he has bounced up and down the coast between San Diego and San Francisco, playing with either team in alternating years.
This season, like Smith, he has averaged just over a tackle a game. Also like Smith, Spillman might help fill a roster. But I wouldn’t make signing him a priority.
When your quarterback’s blindside protector makes the Pro Bowl, that’s good, right? Staley is finishing a five-year contract worth $8 million. Re-sign him, and give him Adam Snyder money. (Hey—I’m not signing the checks.)
Tukuafu, a second-year player from Oregon, has spent most of the season on injured reserve with a bad wrist. He played in the first four games, recording two tackles and recovering a fumble. He’s young, and if the injury heals and the 49ers see something in him, they might consider signing him.
On the other hand, the defensive line is the team’s strongest unit. If they haven’t missed Tukuafu, then maybe they can place talent elsewhere.