Projecting the Future of the 49ers Unrestricted Free Agents

Here's a rundown of the 49ers unrestricted free agents and the likelihood of each one returning.
Publish date:

Here's a rundown of the 49ers unrestricted free agents and the likelihood of each one returning.

OT Trent Williams -- 32-years old, 2020 salary $12.7 million

Just before the draft, Joe Staley notified the 49ers he was retiring. Rather than draft Tristan Wirfs to replace him, the 49ers traded down one spot, took defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and then traded a fifth-round pick in 2020 and a third-round pick in 2021 to Washington for Trent Williams, who sat out all of 2019. To endear themselves to him, the 49ers gave Williams cash up front and agreed not to franchise tag him this offseason. But they tried to come to an agreement on an extension before the season ended, and were unable to, because Williams wants to test the market and see his value. So much more endearing themselves to him. He’s one of the three best left tackles in the NFL and will get lots of money. It’s starting to seem the 49ers may have rented him for one season. Likelihood to return: Moderate

CB Richard Sherman -- 32-years old, 2020 salary $13.9 million

Sherman had his worst season as a pro in 2020. He injured his calf Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, and appeared in only five games total. When he played, he wasn’t fast enough to play man-to-man coverage, so he limited the 49ers defense to zone coverages. Which means the defense was better without him. Sherman might play better next season if he’s healthy, but the 49ers don’t have the money to re-sign him and Sherman twice has said he probably won’t come back. Likelihood to return: Slim.

DT Solomon Thomas -- 26-years old, 2020 salary $9 million

Thomas tore his ACL Week 2 against the Jets and missed the rest of the season. The former No. 3 pick in the 2017 has recorded just six sacks and 48 games. He’s a tweener who doesn’t have a position and offers little to value to an NFL team. He’s one of the worst draft picks in NFL history, and his career might not last much longer. Likelihood to return: Slim.

SS Jaquiski Tartt -- 29-years old, 2020 salary $6.2 million

Tartt is a versatile defensive back who can play in the box, split safety, single-high safety and can cover tight ends. And he can do all of this because he’s a terrific athlete. But he missed nine games in 2020, four games in 2019, eight games in 2018 and seven games in 2017. He can’t stay healthy, so he probably won’t command much money in free agency. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

FB Kyle Juszczyk -- 30-years old, 2020 salary $6.7 million

Juszczyk is the outlet for 49ers run-game coordinator (and now offensive coordinator) Mike McDaniel’s creativity. Juszczyk allows the 49ers run game to be so voluminous and unique. He can execute the most difficult blocks on the move and he can play lots of different positions. He would have to take less to return to the 49ers, but he seems to have an emotional attachment to the franchise. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

RB Tevin Coleman -- 28-years old, 2020 salary $4.8 million

Ran for just 53 yards in eight games and averaged a measly 1.9 yards per carry. Seems to have lost all the juice he had when he played for the Atlanta Falcons. Coleman was an expensive disappointment on the 49ers who routinely got outplayed by his backups, until he became a backup himself. Likelihood to return: Slim.

WR Kendrick Bourne -- 26-years old, 2020 salary $3.2 million

A reliable No. 3 receiver who occasionally becomes a starter when the injury-prone players ahead of him on the depth chart go down. Bourne has missed just one game the past three seasons. He’s a quality possession receiver who does his best work over the middle, on third down and in the red zone. The 49ers signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and he seems to love playing here, although he probably could get more money elsewhere. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

CB K’Waun Williams -- 30-years old, 2020 salary $3.1 million

A small nickelback who struggles in man-to-man coverage but excels in zone coverage and as a blitzer. Williams was former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s secret weapon, but Saleh now is the New York Jets head coach, and the 49ers have evolved to use more man coverages. Williams isn’t a major priority for the 49ers this offseason. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

DE Ronald Blair -- 28-years old, 2020 salary $1 million

Missed the entire season with a torn ACL he suffered in 2019. Blair has spent his whole career with the 49ers and doesn’t have much value after missing so much time with such a serious injury. He might want to return to the franchise that drafted him and continue to work with 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Likelihood to return: High.

C Ben Garland -- 33-years old, 2020 salary $2 million

Garland stepped into the starting lineup in 2019 after Weston Richburg tore his patella, and played through the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. The 49ers might not have made it there without him. But in 2020, Garland showed his age as he missed 11 games with a high-ankle sprain he suffered in training camp. The 49ers most likely will look for new centers this offseason. Likelihood to return: Slim.

DE Kerry Hyder -- 30-years old, 2020 salary $1.5 million

Hyder signed a one-year deal to reunite with Kocurek, his former D-line coach from Detroit, and the reunion paid off as Hyder led the 49ers with 8.5 sacks after he replaced Nick Bosa in the starting lineup. Hyder could cash in on his production and leave the 49ers for the highest offer, or he could stay with Kocurek for a little less and continue to produce. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

DE Ezekial Ansah -- 32-years old, 2020 salary $1.3 million

Ansah appeared in two games and played just 34 snaps before he tore his biceps and missed the rest of the season. The 49ers paid him more than $1 million for those 34 snaps. I doubt another team will hand Ansah another big check so quickly. Likelihood to return: Slim.

OG Tom Compton -- 32-years old, 2020 salary $1.3 million

The 49ers signed Compton to replace former right guard Mike Person, who retired. But Compton struggled so much in training camp, he never could secure the starting job. He split time with Daniel Brunskill, Justin Skule and rookie Colton McKivitz, and played worse than all of them. Likelihood to return: Slim.

RB Jerick McKinnon -- 29-years old, 2020 salary $2 million

McKinnon returned after missing two full seasons with a torn ACL, and clearly was not the same player as he was before the injury. McKinnon no longer has the burst, quickness or explosion he had when he played for the Vikings. In 2020, McKinnon rushed for just 319 yards. He doesn’t have much to offer anymore. Likelihood to return: Slim.

CB Jamar Taylor -- 31-years old, 2020 salary $485,294

Taylor became the 49ers starting nickelback when K’Waun Williams went down, and Taylor played well. But then he tore his ACL, meaning he could miss all of the upcoming season, and potentially never play again -- he’s not young. But the 49ers could give him a one-year deal. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

TE Jordan Reed -- 31-years old, 2020 salary $902,941

Reed missed most of training camp, six regular season games and gained only 231 receiving yards. He never seemed in sync with any of the 49ers quarterbacks, and routinely ran the wrong routes and slammed his helmet on the sidelines when he didn’t get the ball. He’s an old injury-prone player with a bad attitude. Likelihood to return: Slim.

C Tony Bergstrom -- 35-years old, 2020 salary $176,471

The 49ers signed Bergstrom because they were decimated at center. He’s just an emergency fill-in, stop-gap player. He has no future with the 49ers or any team. Likelihood to return: Slim.

CB Jason Verrett -- 30-years old, 2020 salary $887,500

Verrett replaced Richard Sherman in the starting lineup and immediately improved the 49ers defense, because Verrett can play man-to-man and zone coverage. His man coverage in partcular allowed the 49ers to generate pressure by blitzing, which they needed to do after Nick Bosa went down. Verrett has missed so many years due to injury, he almost certainly will take the highest offer in free agency, and the 49ers may not have the cap space to outbid other teams for him. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon -- 26-years old, 2020 salary $2.3 million

Started the season so far in the 49ers doghouse, the 49ers lost a game to the Dolphins because they played practice squad cornerback Brian Allen over Witherspoon, and Allen got torched. Witherspoon eventually broke out of the doghouse, and played well against D.K. Metcalf in the final game of the season. He might want a change of scenery, but he shouldn’t be too expensive on the market. Likelihood to resign: Moderate.

CB Dontae Johnson -- 30-years old, 2020 salary $705,882

Johnson was the third-string nickelback behind K’Waun Williams and Jamar Taylor, and Johnson played decently. He’s a veteran player who has played for the 49ers for many seasons. It seems he always starts the year on the couch and then finds his way to the field. Likelihood to return: Moderate.

DE Dion Jordan -- 31-years old, 2020 salary $661,765

Jordan’s first season working with Kris Kocurek paid off, as he recorded 3 sacks in just 373 snaps. Which means he was a more productive pass rusher than Arik Armstead and rookie first-round pick Javon Kinlaw. If Jordan wants to continue in the NFL, he’d be wise to stick with Kocurek. Likelihood to return: High.

C Hroniss Grasu -- 30-years old, 2020 salary $661,765

Grasu started at center Week 1 because Weston Richburg and Ben Garland were injured. Grasu is a decent run blocker, but he gets bullied in pass protection. He’s a glorified practice-squad player. Likelihood to return: Slim.

DE Jordan Willis, 26-years old, 2020 salary $508,971

Another Kris Kocurek reclamation project. Willis played 183 defensive snaps and recorded 2.5 sacks. He’s a young player with lots of athleticism and upside. Seems like he has found a home on the 49ers. Likelihood to return: High.

QB C.J. Beathard -- 28-years old, 2020 salary $1.1 million

A third-round pick in 2017, Beathard never improved or showed glimpses that he could become a starter or even a quality backup. He was the third-stringer most of last season, and has won just two games in 12 starts. The 49ers need to start over with a new young quarterback, one they can develop. Likelihood to return: Slim.

LB Joe Walker -- 29-years old, 2020 salary $533,824

Walker is a special-teams specialist the 49ers brought in last season to provide leadership to a contending team. Now he’s an aging specialist on a team that just finished last in its division. The 49ers might replace him with a rookie. Likelihood to return: Slim.

WR Trent Taylor -- 27-years old, 2020 salary $800,487

Trent Taylor used to be a quick, effective third-down slot receiver in 2017, but injuries have robbed him of his quickness and now he’s unplayable. He had 86 receiving yards in 2020. He caught only 47.6 percent of his targets. He can’t get open anymore. Likelihood to return: Slim.

DT D.J. Jones -- 26-years old, 2020 salary $861,967

Jones is terrific when healthy -- he’s strong and quick and powerful and surprisingly effective as a pass rusher for a nose tackle. But he misses a few games each season, and his backups on the 49ers are just as good as him. So he might find his best offer elsewhere. Likelihood to return: Slim.