The San Francisco 49ers (10-4) are in prime position to once again compete for an NFL championship. That elusive sixth championship would tie the 49ers with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Lombardi trophies in NFL history.
When we think of winning teams, structure and order usually starts at the top. Winning on the field usually means organizations are winning in the front office.
Luckily for the 49ers, they have one of the best front office staffs in the league, not to mention the wisdom and experience of their coaching staff.
Assembling a great roster means making tough decisions, which brings us back to the front office. 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has done an excellent job in putting together this roster, but in 2014, tough decisions will need to be made.
Unlike previous seasons, the 49ers will have multiple key free agents hoping for an extension or a new deal. Unfortunately, not everyone deserves a new deal.
Here are five players the 49ers shouldn't bring back next season.
This selection shouldn't be a shocker.
In the limited time we saw McCoy during the preseason, he was outplayed by rookie quarterback B.J. Daniels. Daniels was released by the 49ers earlier in the season and picked up by the Seattle Seahawks shortly thereafter.
Colin Kaepernick has a bright future in this league, but the 49ers could still be in contention without their star quarterback.
They almost went to the Super Bowl with Alex Smith at quarterback. This is a 49ers team loaded with talent at almost every position.
As great as it sounds to have Aaron Rodgers under center, the 49ers truly don't need a superstar quarterback to compete. Credit Trent Baalke for making sure of this.
Look for the 49ers to find a veteran backup in free agency or possibly draft a promising rookie quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft.
The Mario Manningham experiment will likely come to an end after this season. Trent Baalke loved the idea of adding a Super Bowl winning receiver to the roster, but Manningham's addition has brought little dividends.
To be fair, the 49ers don't run a ton of three receiver sets, making Manningham expendable. Remember, the 49ers loved to use 12 personnel groupings (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) featuring two tight ends.
We also mustn't forget that the 49ers asked Manningham to take a pay cut coming into the season.
With Anquan Boldin likely to be re-signed, and the eventual emergence of rookie tight end Vance McDonald, the 49ers should let Manningham explore free agency.
In addition, the 49ers will likely fill his spot with a promising rookie or possibly a veteran receiver through free agency. This team desperately needs a red zone threat or a receiver that can take the top off of a defense.
Anthony Dixon is beloved by both teammates and fans alike. However, his time in a 49ers uniform will likely come to an end in 2014. Dixon's contract officially ends after this season.
I'm sure the 49ers would love to re-sign him to a contract befitting of his special teams status, but from some of Dixon's unusual comments this season, he wants a bigger role as a running back.
With Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and a healthy Marcus Lattimore, the 49ers can't afford to give Dixon the minutes he craves.
If no team comes calling for Dixon's services, expect the 49ers to still be in the running for his services in 2014. However, what team doesn't want a special teams spark-plug?
Like Blake Costanzo, who departed to the Chicago Bears in 2012, expect Dixon to head elsewhere next season.
After taking a pay cut before the start of this season, Goodwin only has one year left on his current deal with the 49ers. This is the first sign of Goodwin's eventual departure.
Goodwin's play with the 49ers has been up and down since his arrival. He underperformed in his first season, but bounced back in year two.
In year three with the 49ers, Goodwin's age (35) is unfortunately showing. His play this season has taken quite a dip, and from watching tape, Goodwin is by far the weakest link on this offensive line.
Making matters worse for Goodwin, the 49ers have two young and talented interior lineman waiting in the wings.
In all likelihood, Daniel Kilgore would be the starter at center, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers try Joe Looney in this spot as well.
Looney, who was the 49ers fourth round pick in 2012, is a player with considerable upside.
When I was talking about tough decisions before, the first big test will start here for general manager Trent Baalke.
Carlos Rogers will likely be a cap casualty after this season.
While his play has declined since he signed the deal a few years back, Rogers is still an important element of this 49ers secondary.
Hopefully the 49ers and Rogers can come to a suitable agreement that leaves him in the red and gold for the rest of his career. However, based off his last contract negotiation with the 49ers, I highly doubt Rogers would take a pay cut.
The 49ers need the cap space to re-sign some of their young guns in the upcoming years.
In the next two years, the 49ers have to start thinking about guys like Mike Iupati, Aldon Smith, Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick, Bruce Miller, Chris Culliver, etc.
At this point in his career, Rogers is more of a luxury. Unfortunately, it's a luxury the 49ers can no longer afford.