The San Francisco 49ers have a host of decisions to make this offseason, with one of the more notable being whether or not to push for a contract extension with DeForest Buckner. The 2016 first round pick is eligible for a contract extension this offseason for the first time, although the team is likely to exercise his fifth year option and work from there.
Buckner and defensive lineman Ronald Blair, a fifth round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft are both eligible for contract extensions this offseason due to the current CBA. To prevent early career hold-outs, it requires drafted players wait three full seasons before they can negotiate a new contract.
One exception to this rule is for undrafted free agents. The CBA dictates four year contracts for draft players, and a three-year wait to negotiate a new deal. For UDFAs, thee CBA dictates three year contracts, and a two-year wait to negotiate a new deal. That means that running back Matt Breida, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, offensive lineman Erik Magnuson, and cornerback Greg Mabin can all potentially sign new contracts this offseason. All four are signed to three-year deals through 2019, but originally entered the NFL in 2017 as UDFAs.
Breida will be an interesting decision with the return of Jerick McKinnon and questions about the real value of running backs in the modern NFL. There is value, but as we are seeing, there is a perception that the position is growing more fungible by the year. Given Breida’s ankle injury that continues to flare up, does he try and get some guaranteed money sooner rather than later, or does he roll the dice on a decent sized deal when he eventually hits free agency? My guess is the 49ers sit tight with him and we don’t see much advancement at this point.
Bourne raises the question of what to make of the wide receiver position. Pierre Garçon has been placed on injured reserve, and we have seen Bourne starting opposite Dante Pettis for much of the past month. Does the team look to upgrade over him, or do they seem him as a guy who will further improve with the return of Jimmy Garoppolo, and thus might be a strong No. 2 to Pettis?
Magnuson has one start at center this season, and a mix of DNPs and healthy and injured inactive designations. He is going to remain in a reserve role, likely facing increased competition next season. I doubt we see any kind of contract extension this offseason.
The 49ers have no reason to hurry with any of these players due to protections in the CBA. If they have not signed an extension by the time their deals expire after the 2019 season, they will become restricted free agents. At that point, the 49ers can tender them with a first round tender, second round tender, or original round tender. All three allow the player to negotiate a contract with another team, and if the 49ers choose not to match an offer sheet, they get that compensation from the team. For UDFAs, an original round tender simply means they get a right of first refusal on any offer sheet. The one-year salary for each player under the tender decreases from first round to second round to original round.