The San Francisco 49ers have some free agency decisions to make, but one of the more interesting is running back and special teams standout Raheem Mostert. He is a restricted free agent, which affords the 49ers some control, but his particular situation raises a question for the team.
Mostert entered the NFL in 2015 as an undrafted free agent. A player accrues a season toward free agency if he is on full pay status for six or more regular season games. In his rookie season, he was waived twice, but appeared in ten games between three teams. He appeared in only three games in 2016, but then appeared in 11 games in 2017 and nine in 2018. Each of the last two seasons ended with him placed on injured reserve.
The 49ers will be able to place a tender on Mostert, although they can also choose to non-tender him and make him an unrestricted free agent. Mostert has been a special teams standout the past two seasons and showed some serious skill as a running back this past season, so they are almost certain to tender him if they don’t agree to a multi-year extension before then.
Where it gets interesting is how much the 49ers are willing to tender Mostert. They can use a first round tender, a second round tender, or an original round tender. If they use a tender, then a team signs him to an offer sheet and the 49ers don’t want to match it, the first and second round tenders result in that draft pick as compensation. Since Mostert entered the NFL as a UDFA, an original round tender is simply a right of first refusal on the contract.
If the 49ers place a first round tender on Mostert, the one-year deal that comes with it is for $4,429,000. A second round tender nets a one-year contract for $3,110,000. An original round tender nets a one-year contract for $2,035,000. The 49ers paid Mostert $705,000 for the 2018 season.
Mostert is one of the best special teams players in the NFL, but this past year we also saw him emerge as an intriguing presence in the ground game. From Week 6 to Week 9, he rushed for 250 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. He broke his arm in that last game, but it was an unexpected development seeing him emerge the way he did.
Running back value has been decreasing in recent years, so it is possible there won’t be much of a market for Mostert. And yet, placing the original round tender opens the market at least a little bit. The 49ers tender decision might tell us something about how they view Mostert in the bigger picture. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida are atop the running back depth chart, but maybe this turns into more of a trio of backs in 2019. At the very least, they could view Mostert as a very capable backup worth bringing back for a sizable pay raise.