Early Free-Agent Contracts the 49ers Must Consider
A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers were where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now—on the verge of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. San Francisco lost in Super Bowl LIV, of course, and have since seen their 2020 campaign derailed by injuries and inconsistent play.
The good news is that every team will be back to 0-0 in 2021, and the 49ers will have a chance to rebuild a contender this offseason. The first step in that process will be navigating free agency. With a projected $12.7 million in cap space, the 49ers should be in good if not great shape financially.
Here, we'll examine three players who San Francisco should already be considering in free agency—set to kick off on March 17. Both internal and external options will be considered here, along with factors like cap space, team needs, player production and team fit.
OT Trent Williams
When it comes to players whom the 49ers must re-sign, this is the big one. Trent Williams was a Pro Bowl anchor for San Francisco in 2020 and one of the few bright spots in an injury-plagued campaign.
According to Pro Football Focus, Williams was responsible for 10 penalties in 2020 but just four sacks allowed.
It would behoove the 49ers to get an extension with Williams done ahead of the new league year. Pro Bowl-caliber tackles don't hit the market often, and Williams appears eager to see what he can earn this offseason.
"Even if it doesn't make it to free agency, it won't be because I'm trying to go somewhere else, it may be simply just because I want to see my value," Williams told reporters earlier this month.
Spotrac calculates Williams' market value at a salary of just over $18 million per year. That would be difficult to swallow in the team's current cap situation, but it would be wise to lock up Williams for the next two or three years at a minimum.
CB Michael Davis
With Jason Verrett and Richard Sherman both scheduled to reach free agency, it would make sense for the 49ers to do some restocking at the cornerback position. One potential target to consider is Los Angeles Chargers corner Michael Davis.
Though David has only been a full-time starter for the past two seasons, he has emerged as one of the more underrated defenders on the Chargers' roster. He was terrific in 2020, logging 14 passes defended, three interceptions and 64 tackles in 16 games.
Listed at 6'2", Davis also possesses the length and range that the 49ers have come to covet at the position.
This season, Davis played on a one-year deal worth just under $3.26 million. He should be due a fairly significant raise in free agency. However, San Francisco still may be able to work out a relatively team-friendly deal, as Davis is not yet a league-wide star.
RB Jamaal Williams
The 49ers also have two quality running backs in Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon set to hit the open market this offseason. If one or both of them are not retained, San Francisco should take a long look at Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams.
Williams has only seen a handful of starting opportunities in Green Bay because of the presence of Aaron Jones. However, he has shined when given the chance and has been a tremendous complementary back in Matt LaFleur's offense.
This season, Williams produced 505 rushing yards, 236 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 14 games with three starts.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has a history of stockpiling running backs and could find a variety of ways to utilize Williams in his offense. Financially fitting Williams into the offseason plan may be doable, too, as he isn't exactly the headliner of this year's running back class.
With players like Jones, McKinnon, Coleman, Matt Breida, Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram II and Kenyan Drake expected to be available, the market price for a player like Williams could be on the low end.
*Contract and cap information via Spotrac