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2010 49ers free agents: Should they stay or should they go

Fooch's Note: Check out our open thread for the start of free agency.

Over the past few weeks we've had plenty of discussions about some of the 49ers free agents, but we haven't had a single front page post dedicated to this subject.  We've got some time before free agency kicks off, so now is as good a time as any.  Last year I went with a stay/go/verdict format and I thought it'd be useful to go with that again.  And just a heads-up, free agency will be a theme for this morning, as Ninjames will have a post on the most disappointing free agent signings of the decade in a few hours.

For some of these players, the collective bargaining negotiations will play a big part in what their future holds.  If a new CBA is not agreed to before the start of free agency there are several players that will go from unrestricted free agents to restricted free agents.  That means the team basically gets the right of first refusal as long as they make a tender offer to the player.  All players are unrestricted free agents unless otherwise indicated.  For other opinions on the 49ers free agents, check out Barrows, Maiocco and PHUT!.

David Baas (UFA/RFA)
Stay: Baas was injured in the nutcracker drill, and some would say that slowed him down to start the season, leading to those early struggles.  Under no CBA, Baas is a restricted free agent, which would seem to make it easier to lock him up for at least the tender offer.  Teams might make a run at an Ahmad Brooks in restricted free agency, but a guard?  Furthermore, if the team does grab a guard in this draft, Baas gives them a stop-gap guy, and competition at the left guard position, for one season until the rookie is ready.

Go: Another team offers more money than the 49ers are willing to spend on a decent guard.  The 49ers would likely have no problem letting him walk for some kind of draft pick compensation.

Verdict: Stay - If he was unrestricted I could see him walking, but as an RFA, it makes too much sense to bring him back for at least one more year.

Arnaz Battle
Verdict: Go - I suppose there's a chance the 49ers bring him back, but with the youth at wide receiver, I just don't see it happening.  I'd be shocked if Battle was back in 2010.

Dre Bly
Stay: Bly signed a cheap contract last summer in hopes of landing one last big deal this offseason.  Bly had a decent enough season, but arguably not strong enough to warrant any huge offers in free agency.  If the 49ers can re-sign him at a reasonable price he might be back.  He showed he still has a step or two left, and depending on what the team does in free agency/the draft, along with their feelings on Tarell Brown, they might decide to play it safe and bring him back one more time.

Go: Bly could be gone for one of several reasons: 1) They decide to go younger with Brown and some combination of the draft and free agency; 2) they keep Clements around in some capacity and let Bly walk; 3) They just don't want him around.  The cornerback position is certainly a tough one to get a handle on given all the turmoil and turnover at the position.

Verdict: Go - Although Bly is on the wrong side of 30, I think somebody will offer him a short multi-year deal that the 49ers will not want to match or exceed.

The free agents continue in alphabetical order after the jump...

Ahmad Brooks (UFA/RFA)
Stay: It took some time, but Ahmad Brooks finally started to turn that potential into production in 2009.  One might argue that no new CBA means Brooks as an RFA and more likely to return to the 49ers.  However, it could put the 49ers in a prickly situation.  If the 49ers tender Brooks, it's possible another team makes a sizable long-term offer to him.  If you're the 49ers, do you automatically jump and match whatever is out there?  He looked great closing out 2009, but is it a bit of a gamble to think he'll continue producing at this level?  One of the more intriguing questions once March rolls around.

Go: As mentioned above, another team could make a huge offer to Brooks thinking he's a young star on the rise.  The only way I saw Brooks leaving is if somebody makes him a ridiculous offer that the 49ers decide not to match.

Verdict: Stay - Just as the 49ers might not be inclined to roll the dice on a monster extension, I don't think another team will run the risk of the 49ers not matching such an offer.  Assuming that's the case, the question is how long the 49ers wait to ink Brooks to a long term deal.  Conceivably, they could sign him long term now while his value is relatively low (only one partial season of production).  Or, they sign him to a one year tender offer and wait to see how he does in 2010.  Given the big names waiting to be re-signed (Davis, Willis), I think it might be worthwhile to lock him down now with a front-loaded contract.

Isaac Bruce
Verdict: Go - While he hasn't
made it official yet, all signs point to Isaac Bruce retiring this offseason.  And even if he were to stick around another year, I don't think it would be with the 49ers.  The team sat him the last few weeks of the season and let the final game at St. Louis be a sort of glorified going-away party.

Thomas Clayton (Exclusive RIghts Free Agent)
The Thomas Clayton bandwagon was on hiatus for the past year as Clayton spent the 2009 season on injured reserve with a torn ACL.  Since he has only two accrued seasons (I don't think his IR season doesn't count), Clayton is an EFA, which means the 49ers only have to make a minimum tender offer to him in order to get him back.  If the 49ers make the minimum offer, Clayton has to accept it.  Given how cheap they can have him back, it'd almost be foolish not to bring him back one last time.

Go: Even with the success he had in past preseasons, Clayton was never able to get off the practice squad.  The only reason I can see the 49ers not signing him to the minimum is they just want to move on.

Verdict: Stay - Simply because the team can sign him for a minimal contract.  Why not re-sign him?

Aubrayo Franklin
Stay: Franklin capped off his 3-year contract with the 49ers in impressive fashion.  Franklin may have missed out on the Pro Bowl, but he definitely deserved a bit more consideration than he received.  In the end, the 49ers would seem foolish to not do what it takes to bring him back, even if it's under the franchise tag.  Even Patrick Willis is
"pray[ing] to God" that Franklin is brought back.  If the 49ers are going to continue running the 3-4, they need a big man in the middle.  Franklin has shown himself to be a playmaker down in the trenches.

Go: If the 49ers don't sign him to a long-term deal, they're going to use the franchise tag on Franklin.  Thus, the only way I see him going is if another team ponies up picks for him.  And I just don't see that happening.  The only other reason would be if the 49ers think Franklin will dip off after the big contract.  But I don't think you can operate that way at this point.

Verdict: Stay - The team has to eventually (I hope) get extension money together for Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis.  If the 49ers franchise Franklin, they could use up cap space (if there is in fact a cap) in front-loading contracts for Willis and Davis.  On the other hand, the team could sign Franklin to a big front-loaded contract, and hopefully deal with Willis and Davis after that.  It's an intriguing financial situation to say the least.

Marcus Hudson (UFA/RFA)
Stay: Hudson is one of the UFA/RFA types.  As an RFA, the general consensus is that Hudson will be a cheap option to re-sign.  While he's certainly not a standout on the team, he provides essential depth for when the 49ers go with a nickel or dime defense, as well as on special teams.

Go: He's been on the bubble recently, and it's possible the team goes for additional DB depth through the draft.  Hudson is still relatively young, but it would seem the 49ers know more or less what they're getting from him.  If that's the case, maybe they think it's time to see what else is out there.

Verdict: Stay - I think the team will re-sign him, but I also think he'll once again be a bubble guy come training camp.  The price tag is likely going to be too good to pass on, but given that it'll likely be cheap, it also means it's easy to drop him if something better comes along.

Tony Pashos
Stay: Pashos was ready to find some quality playing time with the 49ers before a fractured scapula put him on injured reserve in late October.  Given how much the 49ers offensive line struggled, I imagine he would've gotten a decent shot at playing time.  The team is likely going to grab an offensive lineman or two in the draft, but Pashos could be a decent backup option, in the mold of Barry Sims (see below).  Pashos actually stuck around the team facilities even after going on IR, so maybe he wants to come back.  Of course, then there's this.....

Go: Pashos used to play for former OL coach Chris Foerster in Baltimore.  Given that Foerster is now in Washington, that might be reason enough for Pashos to take off.  I don't know whether that's the case or not, but it's something to consider.  And the 49ers may decide Pashos is a bit too brittle and let him walk.

Verdict: Go - I don't know if it's because of the Foerster connection, or what the 49ers will do in the draft, but I don't see Pashos sticking around, whether it be his decision, or the team's decision.  Adam Snyder struggled this past season, but if he's moved back into a backup role, he's younger, under contract, and not an awful backup option at this point.

Mark Roman
Stay: I'd be fairly shocked if Roman stuck around, but I suppose the team might like his veteran presence, at what would like be a fairly cheap contract....

Go: However, at 32 and on the downside of his career, I just don't see it happening.  Roman had a decent enough season, all things considered, but given that the team gave him a chance to shop himself to other teams last offseason, I can't imagine he'll stick around.

Verdict: Go - I don't think we need to rehash it.

Barry Sims
Stay: Prior to this past season, any chance of Sims sticking around seemed remote at best.  And yet, in 2009 when Joe Staley went down with his knee injury, Barry Sims stepped up more than any of us could have imagined.  If the team is going to grab a young offensive tackle in the first round of this year's draft, I could see them deciding to try and hang onto Sims as a guy to push the youngster, and potentially be a stop-gap at right tackle if the rookie were to struggle early on.  Throw in the fact that he wouldn't be all that expensive and the team might be foolish to not re-sign Sims.

Go: He's getting old, and maybe that final push in 2009 was the last best effort the 49ers are gonna get.

Verdict: Stay - This is a tough call because I have no idea if he even wants to stick around, particularly if the team grabs another young offensive tackle to pair with Joe Staley.  But, I find myself hoping the team gets him to re-up for one more year.

Jeff Ulbrich
Verdict: Retired

Matt Wilhelm
Stay: After Jeff Ulbrich went down with a concussion, the team signed Wilhelm to a contract for the rest of the season.  It turned out to be a fairly useful signing when Takeo Spikes was hampered by a hamstring injury.  He wasn't spectacular, but he provided some useful depth.  Wilhelm is young enough that I could see the team giving him a shot in training camp to battle Scott McKillop for a roster spot (my money's on McKillop at this point).

Go: When you're signed off the street as an injury fill in, there's really no pressure on the team to re-sign him.  While he certainly played well, the team already has Scott McKillop as at the very least a potential "backup of the future."

Verdict: Stay - As mention in the stay section, I see the team signing him cheap and probably cutting him at some point in training camp.