Over the last few years, the San Francisco 49ers have built up a strong, deep roster that is in solid salary cap shape. The team does not have much cap space, but they have been able to maneuver through the salary cap with relative aplomb.
However, as Trent Baalke said at the NFL Combine, a team cannot sign everybody on their roster. There is only so much salary cap space, and a team has to make priorities. We saw that truism play out quite clearly this offseason. Although we do not know the full details of each contract negotiation, the 49ers seemed content in letting several notable players leave in free agency. Dashon Goldson was the most well-known of the bunch, but we all know what Delanie Walker, Ricky Jean Francois, and Isaac Sopoaga could bring to the table on any given Sunday.
As we look ahead to the rest of this offseason and beyond, the 49ers find themselves facing quite a few contract questions. Some players will be up for free agency in 2014, others beyond that. The 49ers find themselves in a position where they will need to prioritize the free agents, because the 49ers will not be able to sign all of them.
Here is a rundown of some notable free agents just in 2014:
Here are some of your notable 2015 free agents:
That's quite the "Who's Who" of 49ers, wouldn't you say? The 49ers will get plenty of contracts done for this group, but not all of these guys will be back. Some are easier to figure out than others. For example, Jonathan Goodwin is a free agent next year and Daniel Kilgore is a free agent the following year. All signs point to Kilgore eventually taking over at center. Nothing is guaranteed, but the process leads us to believe that.
I bring this up in part because of Matt Maiocco's discussion of the topic in his recent mailbag article. He was asked about Michael Crabtree getting an extension, and he really wasn't sure. I think most of us would agree that at this point Crabtree likely ranks behind Colin Kaepernick on the priority list. That could change depending on how Kaepernick's 2013 season goes, but as of now, that seems to be the case.
Beyond that, there are contract question marks on both sides of the ball that will impact who gets a deal. It will depend in part on how early some of these deals can get done at potentially discounted rates. And of course, it will depend on how the 49ers view the coming draft classes. The 49ers are not only in a position to load up on young talent this year, they have the opportunity of positioning themselves to acquire talent in 2014 and beyond via trade. The way they maneuver through the 2013 NFL Draft could give us some clues as to plans for contract extensions this year and beyond.