49ers' Last-Minute Guide to 2021 NFL Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

49ers' Last-Minute Guide to 2021 NFL Free Agency

0 of 3

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers failed to follow their 2019 Super Bowl campaign with a playoff appearance in 2020. This was largely because of injuries, though, and the 49ers should have a realistic chance to rebound in 2021.

    Many of last year's injured players—like Chase Young and Jimmy Garoppolo—will be back, as will head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. However, San Francisco will have work to do in free agency to retain key contributors and strengthen its roster. That work will officially begin with the opening of free agency Wednesday—though the legal contact window will begin two days earlier.

    The good news for the 49ers is that while some needs must be addressed, the team isn't looking at a major overhaul. San Francisco won't need to load up on notable free agents to be considered a winner in free agency.

    Here, you'll find a quick refresher on the 49ers' biggest needs, most notable free agents, potential targets and cap situation.


1 of 3

    John Lynch
    John LynchAssociated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $24.7 million

    For a team just over a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers are in a surprisingly good cap situation. They're not necessarily cap-rich, but they are in far better shape than over half of the league. With nearly $25 million in projected cap space, San Francisco ranks 13th in the NFL in terms of cap room.

    Don't expect San Francisco to go on a spending spree, but it should have the funds to land a notable free agent or two—or to lock up its biggest free-agent assets.

    The rest of the 49ers' major needs will need to be met in the draft. Thanks to last year's 6-10 record, San Francisco will be armed with the 12th overall pick. The 49ers will also have their second-round selection and a compensatory third-round pick with which to work. However, their initial third-rounder is owned by the Washington Football Team as part of the Trent Williams trade.

    Speaking of Williams, let's move on to San Francisco's most notable free agents.

Notable Free Agents

2 of 3

    Trent Williams
    Trent WilliamsAssociated Press
    • OT Trent Williams
    • CB Richard Sherman
    • DE Solomon Thomas
    • CB K'Waun Williams
    • CB Jason Verrett
    • FB Kyle Juszczyk
    • S Jaquiski Tartt
    • RB Tevin Coleman
    • RB Jerick McKinnon

    San Francisco's biggest priority when it comes to internal free agents should be left tackle Trent Williams. After sitting out the 2019 season, Williams made his way to San Francisco last offseason and went on to have a Pro Bowl campaign for the 49ers.

    While Williams is interested in a return, he "wants his value," according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

    Fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerback Jason Verrett could also be priorities for San Francisco. Juszczyk offers flexibility as a blocker, runner and receiver on offense. Verrett, meanwhile, allowed an opposing passer rating of just 76.2 this past season.

    Lynch recently hinted that a deal with Juszczyk could be coming on Twitter.

    "I'm thirsty Niners fans, you want some 'Juice?'" he tweeted.

    While Richard Sherman, Solomon Thomas, Jaquiski Tartt, and K'Waun Williams may not be top priorities, the 49ers would likely enjoy having them back at the right price. Running backs Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon are prime candidates to be replaced by younger, cheaper options in the draft.

Biggest Needs and Potential Targets

3 of 3

    Alejandro Villanueva
    Alejandro VillanuevaDon Wright/Associated Press

    The 49ers' biggest needs will largely be defined by the players they don't retain in free agency. If, for example, Williams isn't re-signed, then the accompanying hole at left tackle will need to be addressed in a hurry.


    Offensive Tackle

    If Williams doesn't return, then San Francisco will have to weigh its free-agent options against potential draft targets. Free agency could take precedence, as landing one of the top rookie tackle prospects at No. 12 could be difficult.

    Unfortunately, the market isn't expected to be loaded at the left tackle position. In addition to Williams, aging players like Russell Okung and Alejandro Villanueva top the list. Of these two, Villanueva is probably the more enticing option.

    While injuries have limited Okung to 13 games over the past two seasons, Villanueva has started every regular-season game since 2016. While he may not be a future Hall of Famer like Williams may be, Villanueva should at least be dependable.



    With the 49ers unlikely to retain both Sherman and Verrett, they'll likely be in the market for at least one external free agent at the position.

    As is the case at tackle, though, the cornerback position isn't loaded with youth. There are a few younger players, like Daryl Worley (26), Jourdan Lewis (25), William Jackson III (28) and Shaquill Griffin (25), but the biggest names are on the older side.

    The silver lining here is that veteran corners like Patrick Peterson (30) and A.J. Bouye (29) could still be fine free-agent targets. The 49ers' playoff window is open, so there's nothing wrong with considering short-term options here. San Francisco should be looking to win now.


    Defensive Line

    San Francisco may not be interested in bringing back Solomon Thomas, who hasn't quite lived up to his first-round draft status. With impact defensive tackle DeForest Buckner departing via a trade last offseason, the defensive line should be heavily considered.

    There are some intriguing young options here, like 26-year-old defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and 25-year-old edge-defender Carl Lawson. The market is chock full of older capable veterans as well.

    Players like Jurrell Casey, Carlos Dunlap Kawann Short and Trent Murphy could make perfect sense if the 49ers are looking for immediate depth along the line. Of course, San Francisco has building blocks like Young and Arik Armstead in place, so adding defensive-line depth with budget options and/or in the middle rounds of the draft could be the 49ers' approach.

    Overall, the 49ers will likely prioritize depth at most positions, with splashy external free agents only coming in if key pieces like Williams depart.


    *Cap information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.