49ers Free Agency: Three Players to Retain and Let Go
The San Francisco 49ers are set for a challenging offseason as they seek to keep key parts of the nucleus of the 2019 Super Bowl team together.
According to Spotrac, the Niners will enter the new league year with $19.6million of cap space. Only seven teams go into 2020 with less.
Lucrative contract extensions for starters on both sides of the ball are on the to-do list for the 49ers, who also have several pending free agents likely to command significant salaries.
The Niners may have to get creative with their cap room to keep the bulk of this team together. Here we look at three players they should aim to retain and three they should let test the market.
Keep: Arik Armstead
John Lynch has effectively already shown his hand by saying the 49ers want to find a way to make Armstead "a part of the 49ers for a long time", per NBC Sports Bay Area.
That will involve giving Armstead a lucrative contract or using the franchise tag on him following an excellent contract year in which he led the 49ers with 10 sacks in the regular season.
It is worth taking such a step, given Armstead is still only 26 and was a crucial part of a defensive front four that showed the ability to derail offensive gameplans.
The 49ers clearly want to keep the quartet of Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford together. After the devastating impact that foursome made in 2019, doing so is the right move.
Let go: Sheldon Day
While the Niners would ideally like as much defensive line depth as possible, they need to make cuts where they can.
Day is a dependable presence on the interior who can create penetration. He wouldn't be too expensive to retain, but he often struggles to hold up against the run and 2018 draft picks Kentavius Street and Jullian Taylor would be in line to take snaps away from him.
The former Jacksonville Jaguar has done little wrong in his time as a 49er, but in this case, he may prove to be an odd man out on the defensive line.
Keep: Ronald Blair
Expect the 49ers to make a concerted push to retain the services of Blair, who saw a very promising season cut short by an ACL tear.
Blair holds massive value as part of the second wave of defensive linemen the Niners were able to throw at teams before injuries hurt their depth.
He brings inside-outside versatility as a pass rusher and can set the edge against the run. The Niners need to provide rest for their D-Line starters and Blair allows them to do just that.
Let go: Shon Coleman
The 49ers unearthed some depth on the offensive line in 2019. Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule both did a solid job filling in for Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley during their time on the sideline. Ben Garland held the fort at center after Weston Richburg was lost for the year.
Shanahan and Lynch will have been heartened by the performances of those backups when pressed into service, but their dependability was bad news for Shon Coleman.
He entered the preseason as the Niners' swing tackle only to suffer a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula. Brunskill and Skule proved he is no longer needed in that role and, with the 49ers potentially set to invest in interior line help in the draft, Coleman should be allowed to test the market to free room on the depth chart.
Keep: Emmanuel Sanders
After excelling for the 49ers down the stretch following his midseason trade from the Denver Broncos, Sanders should have a healthy market, even though he will turn 33 in March.
He quickly developed a rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo and excelled at gaining separation and making clutch plays in big moments.
Beyond Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne, the 49ers will not have a reliable receiver on the roster. That should press them into trying to get an affordable short-team deal done with Sanders.
Let go: Jimmie Ward
Ward has expressed a willingness to return to San Francisco but, in an offseason where the 49ers have extensions for Buckner and George Kittle on the agenda, he seems a probable casualty if Lynch makes good on his word to keep Armstead around.
Through 13 regular-season starts – the most of a career blighted by injuries – Ward flourished in the single-high safety role critical to the 49er defense.
However, the 49ers can afford to have hope Tarvarius Moore can develop into a starter at that position after an impressive Super Bowl performance.
A strong draft class at safety may also encourage the 49ers to allow Ward to seek the contract he has most certainly earned from another team.