The first phase of NFL free agency is complete, and now the attention will begin to focus on next month’s 2021 NFL Draft.
Despite the cap coming down by roughly eight percent, the best available free agents still got top-dollar on the open market. The most lucrative deal was signed by San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams, who re-upped on a six-year deal worth up to $138 million.
That was just one of many moves made by Niners’ general manager John Lynch. San Francisco also re-signed Kyle Juszczyk, Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, D.J. Jones, Dontae Johnson and Jordan Willis. The 49ers also had a nice haul on the open market, inking center Alex Mack and pass-rusher Samsom Ebukam, among others.
Four of the players the Niners re-signed are on one-year deals, which opens up some flexibility for the franchise in 2022 when the salary cap should see a significant increase.
The 49ers clearly prioritized bringing back their own free agents, an approach the NFL Network’s Jim Trotter praises.
My free agency winners are the Bucs and 49ers for choosing to largely trust in what they have rather than go on external shopping sprees. San Francisco reached the Super Bowl two years ago, then was decimated by injury last season, losing its most important players on each side of the ball for much of the year. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played in just six games and edge rusher Nick Bosa appeared in only two before injuries sidelined them. Not surprisingly, the 49ers fell from 13 wins to six.
With both returning, as well as a number of others who missed time, the 49ers are in a prime position to make another run — which highlights the significance of re-signing key free agents.
With much of their 2019 roster returning, the 49ers were considered one of the Super Bowl favorites going into the 2020 season. San Francisco lost tight end George Kittle and cornerback Richard Sherman to injury in a disappointing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 of the 2020 campaign.
Then, Week 2 happened.
Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert and Solomon Thomas all got hurt in the win over the New York Jets and wound up missing extended time. The result was a disappointing 6-10 finish.
It looks like Lynch and Shanahan are taking the approach to run it back with virtually the same squad but added some significant pieces in Mack and Ebukam. The team is also hopeful veteran pass-rusher Dee Ford will be back at full health, which will provide a big lift to the defense.
Trotter makes a good point about teams who spend a ton on other players during free agency like the New England Patriots did at the opening of free agency.
The cold reality is that over the past 10 offseasons, only half of the 10 teams that committed the most guaranteed dollars in free agency advanced to the playoffs — and none won a Super Bowl.
San Francisco will supplement its already strong roster at the draft, where it is scheduled to have nine picks. With no glaring needs, the 49ers can go a bunch of different ways with their first-round selection.
Overall, it’s been a good start to the offseason for Lynch and Shanahan. The hope is that the Niners don’t deal with a bunch of injuries over the summer and will have their full stable of players for the opening week of next season.
Which three NFL teams do you think have done the best so far in free agency?