NFL Free Agents 2011: Who from the San Francisco 49ers Will Stay and Go?
The NFL lockout has officially been lifted.
Scheduled free agency is set to begin on Friday, but teams can begin to negotiate with players starting tomorrow.
The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of their own players to retain while trying to bolster their roster with other unrestricted free agents in the open market.
GM Trent Baalke and new head coach Jim Harbaugh will have decisions to make on which players to bring back or cut ties with.
On Friday and throughout the weekend, the 49ers faithful will see a number of changes to the roster, and it really should be an exciting period of time.
Aubrayo Franklin has been a force for the 49ers' defense at the nose tackle position, particularly against the run.
However, Franklin is 31 and looking for a large salary contract.
It appears to be a three-team race between San Francisco, Washington and Kansas City for Franklin's services at the nose.
While Franklin would likely prefer to be re-signed and continue to open holes for Patrick Willis, there will not be a hometown discount.
Ultimately it will be San Francisco's decision whether or not they want to invest this amount of capital in an aging player.
Also, having the luxury of starting left end Isaac Sopoaga moving to the nose and play starting-caliber will not help Franklin's case.
David Baas took over at the center position after Eric Heitmann went down and Kevin Mawae opted for retirement over playing in the Bay Area.
Baas endured his share of growing pains back into his college position, but overall, he was a solid center.
Heitmann's future is in question, and he may never play at the same level as before the injury.
Retaining Baas would, at the least, provide a swingman at the two guard and center positions.
The best-case scenario could be if Heitmann does make a full recovery, than he and Baas could battle for the center and right guard positions with Chilo Rachal and Andy Snyder.
Also, Baas should not be terribly expensive to re-sign unless another team really liked what they saw from him and are ready to give him $7 million per season.
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Manny Lawson was brought to San Francisco through a late first-round pick back in 2006 and has not been the dominant rush linebacker the 49ers had hoped he be.
However, Lawson is one of the more versatile linebackers in the league and is excellent at dropping into coverage.
After San Francisco spent their first-round pick on Aldon Smith, Lawson has become expendable. While most fans would like to see Lawson brought back, it would have to be at the right price.
With the free agency frenzy period approaching, a team in desperate search could very easily overpay Lawson.
Shuffling from the defensive end position to dropping into coverage as an outside linebacker, Lawson would be a matchup nightmare.
Takeo Spikes has been great as Patrick Willis' partner in crime and mentor in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme.
Willis and Spikes have been campaigning for some time now to get Spikes re-signed, but it will ultimately be defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's decision.
Spikes would likely take a pay cut to remain a 49er, so the only reason to not re-sign him is if Fangio thinks 2010 third-rounder NaVarro Bowman is ready to step in and be a better player than Spikes.
The worse-case scenario is if Spikes is re-signed to a two-year, $5 million contract and after the lockout entirely falls out, the 49ers have to cut him halfway through the season.
Spikes is a low-risk signing who will not be a huge benefit to the defense, but letting him walk could prove to hurt the defense a ton if Bowman is not ready to step in as a starter.
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Brian Westbrook was thought to have been brought in as a change-of-pace back desperately needed for Jimmy Raye's offense.
However, before Gore went down for the season due to injury, Westbrook was a reserve back and was not used on third downs or in the screen game as well as he could have been.
Kendall Hunter was brought in through the draft and is a very similar player to Westbrook. There is no chance of Westbrook being retained, and he is as good as gone.
Dashon Goldson was excellent in the 2009-2010 season in his first year starting.
Last season was disappointing, but Goldson was not horrible despite what some of the faithful may say.
The 49ers' secondary was horrendous, though Goldson should not have been the focus in blaming the secondary.
Goldson could get overpaid in the open market by a team that misses out on Eric Weddle or Michael Huff, but at the assumed price, he should be welcomed back to the Bay.
The alternate options for San Francisco are not pretty, and the best one would be if Nate Clements took a pay cut and was moved to free safety.
While this would be a hypothetical experiment, the results could either be great or disastrous.
Unless Goldson is given a deal too lucrative for Baalke to match or if San Francisco makes a push for Weddle or Huff, Goldson should be re-signed.
Ray McDonald and Travis LaBoy
Ray McDonald and Travis LaBoy will be grouped because both players will likely be cheap to retain.
McDonald could ultimately start next year with the previously-mentioned departure of Aubrayo Franklin and Isaac Sopoaga sliding to the nose.
If re-signed, LaBoy would keep the occasional pass-rushing role he served well last year.
While LaBoy may never play a full season again due to injuries, he is a cheap pass-rusher who will only be used occasionally.
Both players should be re-signed because of their price tag and the low-risk both players provide in signing them to a new contract.
Decision: Both Stay