The San Francisco 49ers are in the thick of the NFC playoff picture, but general manager Trent Baalke likely has his mind occupied with other critical issues. While the roster is all but set for the remainder of this playoff run, the 2014 season is already a burning issue at 49ers headquarters.
According to ESPN.com, free agency will kick off on March 11, 2014, which leaves just over two months for Baalke to lock up current players before the open market. The front-office staff will have to make the call on 12 upcoming free agents, as well as other players that could be released for salary-cap purposes.
While the 49ers would like to retain most, if not all of these players, impending contract extensions will also complicate the salary-cap forecast for the near future.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, linebacker Aldon Smith and guard Mike Iupati are all approaching the end of their respective deals. The ability to keep these young stars will undoubtedly shape the future of the franchise.
In order to do this, Baalke must first choose whether to keep or part ways with the following 12 players, weighing their impact on the team versus their impact on cap. While future cuts and restructured deals could change the ultimate decisions, this forecast reflects the current standing with an eye on the future.