The San Francisco 49ers have entered the free agency negotiation period with eleven free agents on their roster. The 49ers will make some moves in free agency, but that can be fairly unpredictable given how the market shifts. In the meantime, I figured we might as well take one last stab at what happens with each of the team's free agents. It's time to go "on the record" with my final predictions. We'll see how poorly these look a week or two from now.
The team tendered contracts to RFA Demarcus Dobbs and ERFA Michael Wilhoite. I've included Dobbs on the list below, because as an RFA he can still sign with another team. I have not included Wilhoite because as an exclusive rights free agent, he can not sign with another team.
S Donte Whitner
There has been some talk that the 49ers made a push the last few days to get a deal done, but that seems to have been mostly speculation. Some are ready to move on from Whitner, but given the youth in the 49ers secondary, I wouldn't be opposed to bringing him back. It will come down to what the market dictates, and if the 49ers are prepared to go really young on the back end of the secondary.
Why he walks: Whitner has put together some high profile performances and big hits over the last three years. His coverage improved considerably in 2013. The rising salary cap means someone is willing to go higher than the 49ers. Even if Whitner was willing to take less to stay in San Francisco with a potential championship squad, I think someone is willing to give him one last big deal.
Why he stays: There isn't a big enough deal out there, in part because teams see a 29-year old football player as "getting old". It can be a crazy notion, but in the NFL, when you get close to 30, some people are going to view you as getting old. It only takes one team to make the right offer, but if that one team is god-awful or just generally not a good situation, that could be enough for Whitner to return.
Prediction: I think he walks.
CB Tarell Brown
There has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the 49ers have been negotiating with Tarell Brown. Jason LaCanfora reported there was a late push by the 49ers, while Brown seemed to tell CSN Bay Area there has been nothing. Who knows what is true, but for now, he'll hit the market and get a chance to value where he is at. There was some talk when the 49ers signed Tramaine Brock to a 4-year, $16 million deal that the 49ers were looking to pay him in that range. I think he can get more than that from a cornerback desperate team.
Why he walks: Teams recognize that he is a solid cornerback, and are willing to pay up accordingly. Maybe they even get in his ear about the lost bonus money and how they'd look after him and that sort of thing. He has generally seemed fine with it, and the 49ers did offer some make-good money in a late season bonus, but maybe that impacts his decision.
Why he stays: The market does not shape up the way he was thinking. It could be because he turned 29, or because he isn't quite flashy enough for other teams. He can't quite find a big enough offer, and all things being equal, the 49ers championship potential remains a lure.
Prediction: I think he walks. I just think there are too many cornerback needy teams that are willing to pay up.
K Phil Dawson
Last December, word got out that the 49ers were negotiating with Phil Dawson on a new deal. Since then, we haven't heard a single thing.
Why he leaves: The 49ers want to get younger at the position, and want to invest in more of a long-term option.
Why he stays: He had a great year, and while he is getting old, there is no reason to think he'll fall apart anytime soon. David Akers was in a similar position before the 2012 season, so we can't say anything with 100 percent confidence, but Dawson seems perfectly suited for the 49ers.
Prediction: I think he stays. It makes too much sense.
RB Anthony Dixon
We have not heard a single thing on Dixon's status. He has tweeted in the past that he wants more opportunities, but of course we know the 49ers offensive backfield is kind of loaded.
Why he leaves: Someone is willing to give him more of a shot either as a goal-line back or part of a platoon.
Why he stays: I really can't see at least one team willing to give him more of a chance. I'd be pretty shocked if Boobie was around in 2014. We've said this before, but he hasn't been a free agent before.
Prediction: He walks.
C Jonathan Goodwin
The 49ers extended Daniel Kilgore last week, giving an indication that they are ready to move on from Goodwin. Over the last couple months, Goodwin has seemed resigned to the fact that he probably would not be returning to the 49ers, and might not even play football anymore. He recognizes the realities of the NFL for a 35-year old center.
Why he leaves: Either he retires, or finds someone looking for a veteran presence at center for one last run.
Why he stays: Again, I can't see any situation where the 49ers sign him back.
Prediction: He departs in some form or fashion.
WR Mario Manningham
The 49ers signed Manningham as a free agent two years ago, and for the first few months, he was a very solid weapon for Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Unfortunately, he tore up his knee late in the season, and just never bounced back. He started 2013 on the PUP list, and after getting activated, he could never really get going. He eventually was placed on IR to finish the season.
Why he leaves: The 49ers could use receiver depth, but given his knee injury and the quality of this year's rookie class, there is more potential to be had elsewhere.
Why he stays: The 49ers can sign him for a veteran minimum deal and give him a shot in training camp to show he's back from his knee injury.
Prediction: He walks.
QB Colt McCoy
The 49ers traded for Colt McCoy last offseason to serve as Colin Kaepernick's backup. The team ended up signing multiple third options trying to figure out something, but nothing really panned out. McCoy got some limited time in blowouts, but otherwise stayed on the sideline.
Why he leaves: He wants a crack at some competition as a starter, while the 49ers want someone they can develop behind Kap as a viable backup and potential trade chip.
Why he stays: I can't think of any reasons he stays.
Prediction: He walks
WR Kassim Osgood
The 49ers signed Osgood in June, released him in August, and then brought him back after the season started. He caught one pass, but in reality his value was entirely on special teams.
Why he leaves: Someone is willing to pay up early on in free agency for a special teams stud.
Why he stays: Special teams coach Brad Seely is able to sell him on returning to the 49ers special teams squad. He's likely looking at a veteran minimum deal wherever he signs, so doing so with the 49ers brings with it the prospect of a ring.
Prediction: He stays. The signing may not happen right away, but as free agency progresses, it should happen.
CB Eric Wright
The 49ers tried to trade for Wright shortly before training camp, but then he failed a physical, negating the deal. They eventually signed him to a one-year contract and placed him on the Non-Football Injury List. He came off the list midway through the season, and provided some cornerback depth to close out the regular season. He got little playing time once the playoffs arrived.
Why he leaves: The 49ers are able to find cornerbacks they view as better options. He has made it very clear he wants to return to his hometown team, but at this point, the 49ers seem likely to look for something better first. And even if they can't, he might not be pleased with the treatment.
Why he stays: The 49ers can't find anybody better, Wright gets over hurt feelings, and the two sides agree to a one year deal.
Prediction: I think one of Wright and Perrish Cox returns in 2014. Cox makes more sense given his special teams contributions, but it might come down to how much potential the 49ers see in each of the two former second round picks.
CB Perrish Cox
The 49ers released him midway through the season when they brought Wright off the NFI list. Prior to that he had worked as a special teams contributor, and as the team's dime back. He was re-signed at the end of the regular season after Carlos Rogers got hurt. Cox quickly leap-frogged Wright on the depth chart after Wright dealt with some injury issues.
Why he leaves: Someone is hoping to get something out of the former second round pick and is willing to do a deal early in free agency.
Why he stays: There are no significant offers, and the 49ers can provide a solid amount of playing time on special teams and at the back end of the defense.
Prediction: With both Cox and Wright, I could see a lot of it coming down to how the 49ers view Darryl Morris. They like him on special teams, but if they think he can make the leap to dime back, both Cox and Wright could be gone. I think we see one of Cox or Wright return (I'm leaning toward Perrish Cox), but I think Morris beats that person out for a roster spot in training camp.
DL Demarcus Dobbs
The 49ers tendered Dobbs at the lowest RFA tender ($1.431 million), which is still a pretty sizable figure for a backup defensive lineman and special teams players. He appeared to slip behind Tony Jerod-Eddie on the depth chart, but still got solid playing time as part of the rotation behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. And of course, he remains a prominent special teams player.
Why he leaves: Someone gets a littla crazy and offers him a long-term deal the 49ers are not prepared to meet. Any offer would come from a team that thinks he can be a more prominent fixture of a defensive line.
Why he stays: RFA don't generally get offer sheets these days.
Prediction: He signs the tender, returning for another year in San Francisco.