Monday marked the start of the 2014 offseason for the San Francisco 49ers and with that, the attention turns to free agency and the draft. The 49ers have 13 players who are free agents, with 10 of those 13 being unrestricted free agents. Of the three who are not unrestricted, linebacker Michael Wilhoite is a free agent with exclusive rights while cornerback Perrish Cox and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs are restricted free agents.
Here, we will focus on just unrestricted free agents as these are the guys whom are of most interest. Within the list of 10 unrestricted free agents on the 49ers’ roster, we can put them into three separate categories: who must come back, who might come back, and who will likely not be back with the 49ers for the 2014 season. I’ll touch on the latter two categories here.
I believe that two of the 10 UFAs will not be back with the team next season, and they are wide receiver Mario Manningham and running back/fullback Anthony Dixon. The two seasons that Manningham has had with the 49ers have been rather nondescript, with a knee injury derailing his 2013 season. With Quinton Patton on the roster, it’s hard to see Manningham being brought back at all.
As for Dixon, he is a player who all 49ers fans love and who has been a swiss army knife with his ability to not only play on special teams, but to also play some fullback and carry the ball in goal-line and short-yardage situations. It for this versatility that I expect some team will offer Dixon a nice deal, and one the 49ers will be in no position to match or surpass it in order to keep him around for the 2014 season.
As far as who might come back to the 49ers in 2014, I believe four of the 10 UFAs fall into this category: safety Donte Whitner, center Jonathan Goodwin, quarterback Colt McCoy and cornerback Eric Wright.
In the case of Goodwin, assuming he decides to continue playing, I see him returning to the 49ers as he is a key cog to what is a very good offensive line. McCoy will stick around if the 49ers are unable to find a better option for a backup quarterback in free agency or in the draft. If they do, however, McCoy can look for another team.
With Wright, whether he stays with the 49ers will likely depend on if another team will give him a chance to be a starter. If not, his best bet considering the circumstances will be to stay with the 49ers for at least one more season and test free agency in 2015.
As for Whitner, it will come down to what he will be asking in terms of salary and guaranteed money. If its not in line with what the 49ers are willing to pay, I can see him being deemed expendable even though he has been a key player for the defense.