Since the draft wrapped up things have quieted down a bit, which opens up some discussions about free agency. Since we don't know the actual rules in place it's rather difficult to really nail things down too much. After all, a new CBA will likely impact everything from salary caps and floors to franchise and transition tags to required years of restricted free agency. Of course, that's not going to stop us from speculating on every issue under the sun until some kind of deal is hammered out.
Earlier this week we had some discussions about cornerbacks in free agency. The 49ers did not make a huge splash in the draft prior to drafting Chris Culliver, which might open the door for a big name free agent addition. There are some excellent corners on the market, and we don't really know yet what the future holds for Nate Clements and his increasing contract.
The discussion of the big name cornerbacks got me thinking about the 49ers financial situation. We can only discuss so much before the CBA is figured out and a salary cap finalized. However, whatever it ends up being, the 49ers already have some sizable contract issues. David Baas and Aubrayo Franklin will be unrestricted free agents no matter what the rules are for years towards URFA eligibility. Baas started at center and Franklin at nose tackle. While each had his ups and downs, both did a commendable job at their respective position and would seem to be in line for a big pay day, whether it be with the 49ers or another team in free agency.
As it currently stands, the replacements for those two in 2011 would be Eric Heitmann and Ricky Jean-Francois. If Heitmann can get healthy (a potentially big if), there is no concern about his moving back into the starting lineup. The primary issue is age and the fact that he'll be a free agent himself following 2011. As for RJF, he looked very solid in training camp and preseason games last year, but there's a big difference between that and starting regular season games.
Given the makeup of the 49ers current roster, how do you prioritize the three contract issues of David Baas, Aubrayo Franklin, and a potential big money cornerback? The 49ers will have additional areas to deal with in free agency after 2011, so it remains to be seen if they can cover all three of these contracts. If they can get Baas and Franklin signed to relatively reasonable deals at some point then maybe all three can happen. Otherwise, the 49ers will have to make some tough decisions.