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Which unrestricted free agents should be 49ers’ priority to re-sign in offseason?

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will have to make some tough decisions due to the salary cap constrictions.

Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL season has been rough for the San Francisco 49ers. Less than one year after coming up just short in the Super Bowl, the Niners will most likely miss the playoffs. Injuries that occurred early in the season decimated the 49ers roster. Losing George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Solomon Thomas less than two games into the schedule has led the team towards a lost season.

It was supposed to be San Francisco’s Revenge Tour with all but four starters returning for the 2020 campaign, but the injuries killed any hope of that. Now, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch face an offseason of uncertainty as they work to put together a championship team for next season.

The 49ers have 29 players who are slated to become unrestricted free agents after the season, and the league’s salary cap is projected to be around $176 million, according to Over the Cap. The pandemic’s economic fallout will result in a roughly $30 million drop compared to this season, but the cap could go up to the $225 million range for the 2022 season.

Here is how the unrestricted free agents breakdown by position:

Offensive line: Trent Williams, Ben Garland, Tom Compton, Hroniss Grasu

Williams has been the best offensive player for the Niners, and Shanahan has said he would like to bring the All-Pro back for 2021. The center position needs addressing even if Weston Richburg’s health is an issue, but Garland has proven to be a useful backup. Compton and Grasu were signed for depth, and likely won’t be back next season.

Wide receiver: Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor

Bourne has been a decent third-option at the position with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk each missing time this season. He could be back if the price is right. Taylor’s days with the team look numbered.

Running back/Fullback

Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Juszczyk

Coleman and McKinnon are expendable with the emergence of Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. Coleman’s $4.25 million salary is too rich for San Francisco’s blood next season. Mckinnon isn’t the same player he was before missing two full seasons with serious knee injuries.

Juszczyk has been as advertised and could re-sign with the team, depending on which type of offers he gets from around the league.

Quarterback: C.J. Beathard

If Garoppolo is with San Francisco next season (the 49ers can walk away from his $26.9 million cap hit without penalty), Lynch and Shanahan need to bring a quality backup given Jimmy G’s injury history. Beathard isn’t close to that.

Tight end: Jordan Reed

It’s a shame we haven’t been able to see what Reed and Kittle could do together on the field. Depending on his health, the veteran would be a great low-cost option for San Francisco next season.

DEFENSE

Defensive line: Thomas, D.J. Jones, Kerry Hyder, Ronald Blair, Ziggy Ansah, Dion Jordan, Jordan Willis, Takk McKinley

The last four names on the list were brought in after the 49ers’ starters became the walking wounded. Unless McKinley balls out, it’s tough to see any of them being brought back in 2021.

Thomas will never live up to his draft position, but if he agrees to a massive pay cut compared to the more than $7 million salary he received this season, I can see him being back next year. Jones is only 26 and has performed admirably in an increased role this season. Jones has the tools to be a productive defensive tackle, and with Bosa back in 2021, it will free him up to do some more damage. Hyder has been a bright spot along the defensive line, leading the team with 5.5 sacks through 10 games. He’s only making $1.5 million this season but will likely command a raise given the numbers he has been putting up. Blair’s injury-history means he probably won’t be back.

The secondary: Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, Jason Verrett, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jamar Taylor, Dontae Johnson, Jonathan Cyprien

The backline of the defense is where Lynch and Shanahan will have to make their most challenging choices. The good news is that Sherman should be back next week against the Los Angeles Rams, so the organization will see how much he has left in the tank at the age of 32. Sherman has been one of the best corners in the game for a long time, and if the price is right, he would be welcomed back, assuming he wants to continue his career. Williams is one of the best slot corners in the NFL, while Tartt has also played well during his injury-filled tenure with San Francisco. Verrett has been the surprise of the season, while Witherspoon has been one of the disappointments. ‘Spoon has all of the physical tools to be a starting corner, but his lack of football IQ has been on display for long enough. It’s time to move on from him.

Linebackers: Kiko Alonso, Joe Walker

Alonso won’t play for the Niners after being acquired in the Kwon Alexander trade. Walker started 11 games for the Arizona Cardinals last season but has only seen the field with the special teams unit with San Francisco.

We know that superstar linebacker Fred Warner is in line for a big extension, so Lynch and co. will need to have cap room available to pay him top-dollar. The highest-paid middle linebacker is someone the Niners are very familiar with. Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner makes $18 million per season, C.J. Mosley of the New York Jets is next, his deal averages out to $17 million.

Which five UFA’s do you think will be back with the 49ers in 2021?