The San Francisco 49ers front office took care of some business during training camp, including extending Glenn Dorsey, and re-working Alex Boone's current contract. There was some chatter that they might get a deal done with Michael Crabtree, but that never came to fruition. Since the regular season started, the 49ers have been fairly low key with regard to impending free agents.
We've been doing some midway point breakdowns, so I figured we might as well take a look at the 49ers many impending free agents. We'll have full predictions after the season, on what will happen with each player, but feel free to offer up your predictions now.
Unrestricted free agents
Chris Cook: Tore his hamstring in Week 7 and ended up on injured reserve. The 49ers had signed him to a 1-year league minimum deal, and I would not be surprised if they brought him back on another 1-year deal. He was playing some solid football as mostly a dime back on the outside.
Perrish Cox: He was a revelation through the first six weeks (with Week 7 struggles), filling in for Tramaine Brock after the latter suffered a turf toe injury. The 49ers and Seahawks each waived Cox during the middle of last season, so this performance has come as a surprise for most. He is signed to a 1-year deal, and is certainly putting on a contract year performance. It will be interesting to see what the market is like for a guy who is currently tied for third in interceptions, and seems to make big pass break-ups almost every week.
Michael Crabtree: This is a tough one to figure out. He is in the walk year of his rookie contract, and is not having the best season. He has 32 receptions for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He has dealt with some nagging injuries, and is in a group that is especially deep this year. He has made some big plays for the team, but for purposes of establishing his contract value, having Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd all in the mix is not exactly helping. And with Stevie Johnson in particularly playing some really solid football, the 49ers might be inclined to let Crabtree walk and address depth through the draft or a cheaper option in free agency.
Chris Culliver: He joins Chris Cook and Perrish Cox as free agents providing the 49ers with a handful of options while they figure out their future in the secondary. Culliver was the starting nickel back early in his rookie season and through the 2012 season. He tore his ACL during 2013 training camp, and returned for the 2014 season. He is starting outside, and we have seen a bit of good and bad.
In comparison to Perrish Cox it is not surprising some folks are down on him. He has not made splashy plays, but I think he has been solid. It is hard to figure out what the market will be for him. And it is also worth considering that he would then have a full season back from his ACL surgery, so maybe there would be some room for improvement
Demarcus Dobbs: I was surprised when the 49ers tendered Dobbs this past offseason as a restricted free agent. He is a very serviceable backup on the defensive line, while also being an extensive contributor on special teams. I suspect he departs in free agency as the 49ers are hopefully going to move Quinton Dial into a more extensive role, and just get Tank Carradine a role.
Blaine Gabbert: The 49ers dealt a late round pick for Gabbert, and as one would hope, we have not seen a lot of the backup quarterback. I had hoped the 49ers would re-work his contract with an additional year added on for some more extended development time, but it did not happen. I am not entirely sure what his future is with the 49ers.
Frank Gore: The 49ers running back is in the final year of his contract, with Carlos Hyde brought in as the latest option to potentially replace him in 2015. Gore is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, with big games in two wins, a solid performance in a third win, and not much in the fourth win. In the three losses, he has not been able to really get going, and at times the team has clearly moved toward more of a passing offense.
My guess is the team moves on from Gore after this season, but anything is possible with this running back situation. Carlos Hyde has looked solid at times, and Marcus Lattimore is going to work his way back into the picture. The 49ers would need Gore at a fairly inexpensive price given the many salary cap obligations they will be dealing with following Colin Kaepernick's new contract. My guess is Gore walks, but we'll see.
Kendall Hunter: The man who was expected to start the season as Gore's backup tore his ACL early in training camp and was placed on IR later in August. The 49ers could potentially bring him back on a league minimum deal, and it might make some sense if they decide to part ways with Frank Gore. If Gore departed, Hyde would likely enter training camp as the team's No. 1 running back, opening the door for competition between Hunter and Lattimore. The 49ers have indicated they would like to have Hunter back, but it is too early to speculate too much on what will happen in free agency.
Mike Iupati: He has been cleared to return following his Week 6 concussion, but it has been an up and down year for Iupati. He struggled early in the season, although the belief is that his recovery from a leg fracture played into that. He should be just about fully healthy at this point, so hopefully that bodes well for the final nine games. That being said, the market for Iupati is likely going to be out of the 49ers price range. The 49ers red-shirted Brandon Thomas this year, and he will be in the mix for guard play next summer. I just don't see Iupati returning.
Josh Johnson: He has served primarily as the scout team quarterback this season, so who knows if he will want to return in the same role. Financially, it's a great deal for him since it means he gets paid to practice and that's about it.
Brandon Lloyd: This is a tricky one. He's making some important contributions this season, but he seems entirely unpredictable in terms of what he wants to do with his future. He left football for a year to do assorted work, and then decided he wanted to come back. If he finishes the year with some solid work, maybe he decides he's still got it for another year, or maybe he decides he wants to walk out on a high note. I honestly have no idea, and that doesn't even factor in whether he wants a significant raise or not.
Kassim Osgood: The 49ers have had Osgood in and out over the last two years, and it would not surprise me to see him back in training camp next year for another crack at the roster.
Kyle Nelson: He has done solid work as the long-snapper, and the 49ers should be able to bring him back at a fairly reasonable price.
Dan Skuta: The 49ers continue to use Skuta as a special teams player, and base defense OLB when Aldon Smith has been absent. The 49ers will potentially head into next season with Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch and Corey Lemonier under contract. Skuta is a very capable reserve who has helped the 49ers in several pinches. And yet, if the 49ers keep Brooks, Skuta would seemingly be the kind of guy who would not return because of salary cap issues. His cap hit is $1.65 million, but if the 49ers can find a rookie earning less than half that, they might have to make that call.
Bubba Ventrone: See Kassim Osgood.
Restricted Free Agents
Garrett Celek: I did not think the 49ers would tender Demarcus Dobbs as a defensive line reserve, and they did. I think there is even less of a chance Celek gets tendered, but nothing would surprise me. The 49ers have Derek Carrier as a third tight end right now, so if they are happy with his development, they might decide to let Celek walk.
Michael Wilhoite: He has been a very solid replacement for NaVorro Bowman. Wilhoite will return to almost exclusively special teams work when Bowman returns, but remains a great insurance option in case Bowman's return is slowed at all. I think we see the 49ers tender him in order to maintain a solid backup option alongside Chris Borland.
Exclusive Rights Free Agent
Tony Jerod-Eddie: The 49ers can sign him as an ERFA for the veteran minimum, and I fully expect them to do so. He is a solid backup to Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. Ideally Quinton Dial and/or Tank Carradine challenges him for the role, but it is nice to have a guy like TJE in your back pocket.