The San Francisco 49ers put together an incredibly busy run through free agency this year, and as soon as next offseason, we’ll know if some of these signings are a success. Draft picks might take three or four years to really understand the implications, but the salary cap era provides a lot of quick results.
Generally, if you know enough within a year to judge a free agent signing, odds are good it did not work out well. Players get very little in fully guaranteed money, which means teams can get out of deals quickly if they do not like where it is going.
Over The Cap put together a ranking of the 30 worst free agency signings from 2016. Given the 49ers lack of significant signings, it is not surprising they do not appear on this list. Their most significant signing was Zane Beadles, who inked a three-year, $9.75 million contract. They also signed Thad Lewis, and extending a handful of players, but that as it.
Dwayne Allen, Brock Osweiler, and Chase Daniel topped the list. I would have put Osweiler ahead of Allen, but there is no doubt they were both awful transactions.
The 49ers were busy this offseason, signing a whole host of free agents. We don’t know the details for Tim Barnes and Brandon Fusco, although odds are they are pretty low in value. But other than that, a year from now it will be interesting to see how we are viewing these contracts. The four biggest deals combining dollars and length belong to Pierre Garçon, Kyle Juszczyk, Malcolm Smith, Earl Mitchell, and Brian Hoyer.
Considering Hoyer’s deal is only two years, it’s hard to get too worked up over it. If he never plays a down for the 49ers, so be it. But if he starts most or all of this season, I don’t see it as anything worse than a “meh” contract.
The deals for Garçon, Juszczyk, and Smith all provide the 49ers with ways to get out of the deal before the end. Lack of guaranteed money is part of it, but the contracts also factor in options for Garçon and Smith. From those three contracts, Smith is the one that stands out as most likely to be viewed as a “bad signing” a year from now. The 49ers drafted Reuben Foster, and if he is healthy, it is entirely possible he will supplant Smith fairly quickly. The 49ers can afford to take dead money hits at this point, but it still would not be the best use of resources if Foster takes over. Even if Foster is not fully recovered from his torn rotator cuff, it could turn into a deal that is more lucky than good.
As for Earl Mitchell, it’s a four-year, $16 million deal, and the cap hits are not too bad. He does not exceed a $4 million cap hit until 2019, at which point the 49ers will not owe him any guaranteed money, and can get out of it with no more than $1.5 million in dead money. It’s hard to see that showing up on a “bad signings” list. Again, like Hoyer, if he does not play a down, then yes, it’s not good. But realistically, it seems like it will prove to be a reasonable enough deal.