One of the many issues the NFL and NFLPA dealt with in their 2011 collective bargaining was draft picks holding out early in their contracts. The new CBA set it up so that picks could not re-negotiate their contracts until after the third year, and UDFAs can re-negotiate after their second year.
The 49ers are in no rush to hand out contract extensions for their 2014 class, which makes sense given the new coaching staff and front office taking over. We might see some deals before the end of this season, but I doubt we see anything of note between now and training camp.
Once the season ends, 2015 draft picks and 2016 UDFAs will be eligible for contract extensions. The 49ers 2016 UDFA class has one player remaining on the roster, offensive tackle Norman Price. He might compete for a practice squad spot, but a roster spot seems unlikely for the time being.
The 2015 draft class included ten players, and seven remain on the roster. Running back Mike Davis (fourth round pick), offensive lineman Ian Silberman (sixth round pick), and tight end Busta Anderson (seventh round pick) are no longer with the team. The remaining players include:
DT Arik Armstead
S Jaquiski Tartt
OLB/DE Eli Harold
TE Blake Bell
WR DeAndre Smelter
P Bradley Pinion
OT Trent Brown
Armstead was a first round pick, and the 49ers will have to decide next offseason whether or not to pick up his fifth year option (covers 2019). He is getting a chance at the LEO position this offseason, but his final status for 2017 is still to be determined. He’ll be on the roster, but he could be anything from a starter in the base to primarily a sub-package guy. Either way, if they think he might be worth an extension after this season, that means they will almost assuredly pick up his option and see what a second year in the system means before extending him.
After that, there are a handful of players that will be under consideration. Tartt, Harold, Pinion, and Brown all stand the best chance of getting some kind of significant playing time. Pinion would be the least surprising extension if he puts together a solid year. Brown is competing with Garry Gilliam for the right tackle role. Brown is a monster of a man who might be better suited for more of a power scheme, so training camp will be pretty huge for him.
Bell is a tough one to figure out. He converted from quarterback to tight end his final season of college. The 49ers brought in George Kittle and Logan Paulsen, and Cole Hikutini could end up competing for a role as well. Bell, Vance McDonald, and Garrett Celek are all on notice.
Harold is a tough one to figure out given the switch to a 4-3. He could compete for an end spot or the SAM role in the team’s base defense. Ahmad Brooks could be ready to lock down the SAM role, and Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch are probably the favorites for the LEO role. When the team switches to their nickel, which is more likely to be more of a base for them, is there any room for him at either of the end roles? He has an uphill climb for a role, which in turn means he seems low on the extension list.
And finally there’s Tartt. Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid are expected to be the team’s starting safeties. Will Tartt rotate in there, be used in the dime, or maybe get some hybrid linebacker opportunities? He’s the most intriguing of this group in my mind given the lack of serious depth at the safety position.
Who do you see as the most likely to land an extension next offseason?