The San Francisco 49ers have a number of players set to hit the free agent market in 2016, including multiple starters. We've heard a lot of talk about tight end Vernon Davis, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and right guard Alex Boone. If those guys are open to returning for another year following this coming season, they're probably worth keeping around.
That said, I'm not sure any of those guys stand much of a chance of being extended during the regular season this year. I was trying to think of which guys would be first in line for extensions if they got out to a hot start next season, and I came up with two names just looking over San Francisco's free agents: outside linebacker Aldon Smith and defensive tackle Ian Williams.
Williams' situation is simple -- he's a very talented guy who has dealt with significant injuries throughout his career. Because of this, if he gets next season started off on the right foot, the best deal he could probably get would be a relatively team-friendly extension for multiple years -- say three or so.
Smith is ... a little more complicated, to say the least.
Obviously, Smith has had his off-field issues, has been punished by the league and has ultimately been incredibly disappointing since the 49ers drafted him. Of course, when he does play he's absolutely dominant and it's an absolute shame we don't read about him making huge plays each and every week, and instead simply forget he exists because he's missed so much time.
But the 49ers know Smith's potential, they've seen the kind of destruction he can administer on a per-snap basis and the team exercised his fifth-year option for this coming season. But the 49ers also re-negotiated Smith's deal, and it was reported that the team would have released Smith if he didn't restructure to a low base salary and eliminate his guarantees.
It's a good move for the team and an encouraging one. But as Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area notes, the 49ers are not a team which typically engages in bidding wars. If their own free agents hit the open market and get a better offer than the 49ers initially offer, it's typically of a short conversation. Those guys are as good as gone. And if Smith has anything near a productive season with no off-the-field incidents, he would cost a whole lot.
If any player is in line for a quick extension next season, it's Smith. The 49ers have Aaron Lynch to man one spot and Eli Harold with a lot of potential as well, but Smith is a sure thing if he stays out of trouble. He's always going to come with some baggage and be a risky proposition for teams as they try and figure out a fair deal, but if the 49ers don't secure him, someone else surely will.