Amidst all the talk about Lance Briggs, Terrell Suggs, Bernard Berrian, and Albert Haynesworth, I almost forgot about the 49ers own free agents. Thankfully everyone's favorite media-man Matt Maiocco has an interesting post up discussing the 49ers own free agents, as well as players with questionable futures. Seeing the post inspired to throw out my own thoughts and see what everybody else thinks about the 49ers free agents. The big resigning of the offseason so far was Shaun Hill's three-year deal. While the 49ers have several other free agents, most of us wanted the Hill deal to get done before things stretched to far.
The deadline for slapping on the franchise and transition tags is February 22. While the 49ers are not likely to slap either tag on anybody, the franchise/transition designations will certainly have an impact. As players are essentially taken off the market with the tags, the value of other unrestricted free agents can only go up. I'd say that's common sense even if you've never taken a basic economics class. For the 49ers, guys like Isaac Sopoaga and Marques Douglas are free agents will be looking for decent deals and Albert Haynesworth being named a franchise player would certainly give them more negotiation leverage. I'm even of the opinion that if a guy like Suggs or Briggs were franchised it would generate more value for defensive players at other positions since teams might be inclined to shift money from bringing in a big name linebacker like Suggs to bringing in a solid defensive lineman instead.
Douglas is the main guy I'm concerned about it. He has stated an interest in sticking with the 49ers for the foreseeable future. Those are nice sentiments, but is he a guy worth investing some bucks in? He's coming off a 3-year, $4.5 million contract and is due for a sizable raise. He had a solid year bringing disruption from a defensive line that otherwise struggled. Looking at his career numbers, he's gone five season without missing a game and has shown improvement the last few years. With some mocks showing the 49ers going after defensive linemen, MM has also thrown out Justin Smith as a guy the 49ers could conceivably pursue. I've seen his name thrown out here and would certainly not have a problem bringing in Justin Smith on the line. Smith would command quite a bit more than Douglas, so the question becomes whether you invest heavily in Smith and maybe not so much at linebacker or somewhere else, or do you resign Douglas, draft a defensive lineman relatively high and then invest that money elsewhere? Personally I think it's win-win either way, but some people definitely feel strongly one way or the other.
I've always been a fan of Sopoaga but he's never seemed to step up from role player to truly capable starter. MM made a separate post this evening about how the Cowboys resigning of Jay Ratliff late in the season would affect Sopoaga. As an RFA, Ratliff resigned for 5 years, $20.5M with an $8M signing bonus. Sopoaga is a UFA and the difference between the two is Ratliff has appeared to show some steady improvement, while Sopoaga has been a bit more consistent if unspectacular. Of course, a nose tackle is meant to open holes for the linebackers and plug the runners hole so it's rather difficult to judge their performances based on statistics. If Sopoaga gets a Ratliff deal from the 49ers, I'd assume he'd get a bigger share of the load with Aubrayo Franklin, on the dollars and cents alone. Do you let him walk and try and go big, fat defensive tackle in the draft?
While left tackles have started racking up the dollars, guards have remained a little more expendable. The 49ers offensive line struggled but they have some decent options to replace Smiley. MM reports Wragge would be the guy to take over. It seems with him, Baas and others, the 49ers have interchangeable parts they can try and utilize at the guard position. With Larry Allen potentially retiring or at the very least being let walk barring a much lower contract, there will be plenty of turnover at both guard positions.
If the 49ers don't work out a long-term deal with the ageless one there's just NO justice in the world.
Beyond Douglas and Sopoaga, the 49ers have a lot of bit pieces. I can't see why they would bring back Kwame. Maurice Hicks knows he won't get a chance to start as long Frank Gore is healthy. Donald Strickland has shown some solid skills and I wouldn't mind bringing him back for at least a shot of making the team out of training camp. Other than that, there really aren't to many guys to deal with in terms of in-house free agents.