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Mike Iupati listed near top of NFL.com's free agent rankings

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Mike Iupati is arguably the biggest name on the 49ers roster due to hit free agency. NFL.com has him as their top ranked offensive lineman. Is there any chance he returns?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have 15 unrestricted free agents this year, and one of the most notable is left guard Mike Iupati. Early indications are that Iupati will likely be looking at a sizable contract offer from somebody this offseason. While his pass blocking has left something to be desired, his run blocking is strong enough that someone will pay big bucks.

NFL.com ranked this year's top 25 free agents, and Iupati is slotted at No. 7. He is the highest ranking offensive lineman, with no other lineman showing up in the top 25. Defense tops the list, with Ndamukong Suh and Justin Houston listed one and two. They are followed by wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and tight end Julius Thomas.

Iupati has said he would like to stick around, but the business of interior linemen makes that unlikely. The last time the 49ers faced a sizable pay day at guard was when Adam Snyder hit free agency. He departed for greener pastures in Arizona. Before that, Justin Smiley was the last notable interior lineman the 49ers did not re-sign. It is not an extensive history, but the 49ers seem unlikely to offer much of a contract to Iupati before free agency gets going.

The 49ers have exclusive negotiating rights until March 7, at which point other teams can start to talk with Iupati and other free agents. Iupati would not be able to sign with a new team until March 10. I imagine there will at least be discussions, if they have not already happened, but odds don't seem good that Iupati will return.