Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sopoaga is one of five regular starters, not including special teamers, that is 30 years or older. Unfortunately for Sopoaga, he is the only one of them that will be unsigned at the end of the season.
Sopoaga, 31, has been the anchor in the middle of San Francisco 3-4 front. And he’s brought great versatility to the game of football, showing his ability to play all the positions along the defensive line. Before he was a NT, Sopoaga started at the left end spot where Ray McDonald now plays. But they kicked him inside and promoted Ray McDonald, after they let Aubrayo Franklin walk in free agency after the 2010 season.
Sopoaga has certainly played well enough to command more many elsewhere and San Francisco does not have the funds to shell out any more big money contracts.
Meanwhile, the team has also Ricky Jean-Francois, who can play the nose position. Jean-Francois, 26, is also in need of a new contract this year, so the Niners might be interested in investing in youth.
The 49ers should also focus on the defensive line early on in April's draft. They can kill two birds with one stone by drafting a prospect that can immediately play in the middle but one who can also replace Justin Smith once he’s left the game.
San Francisco has a chance to upgrade and get more competitive on the defensive line this year, and they should do it. There should be no hard feelings, either, as Sopoaga will still land a nice contract elsewhere and be a valuable starter.