Which 49ers might not be around next season?
The list mostly includes the team's pending unrestricted free agents. But there also are a few players — including quarterback Alex Smith — whose 2013 contracts at least make them susceptible to the cutting ax.
Keep in mind that the 49ers expect to have 14 — FOURTEEN! — draft picks in April with perhaps more coming if they can trade Smith.
David Akers: Akers made all three of his field-goal attempts in the Super Bowl, but he needed a gift running-into-the-kicker penalty to erase a 39-yard miss. Akers missed more kicks than any other kicker in 2012, and he's set to make more than $3 million. Those two sentences don't mesh very well. At the very least, the 49ers will bring in a young kicker, perhaps through the draft. Justin Medlock, who worked out for the 49ers in January, is a Bay Area guy.
Leonard Davis (unrestricted free agent): The big veteran was relegated to the team's jumbo packages and played only 128 snaps this season. He would have been the first guard off the bench, but Alex Boone and Mike Iupati stayed healthy this season. With two young linemen, Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney, waiting in the wings, and with the team having so much draft capital, it's hard to see Davis coming back. Then again, the 49ers don't have much depth at tackle, and Davis could have played there in a pinch.
Ted Ginn (UFA): Ginn saw his workload decreased this season after LaMichael James took over kick-return duties. Ginn hardly contributed as a receiver, and his most notable offensive play involved a botched pitch in St. Louis and Ginn's dainty attempt to recover the ball. Still, it's possible that Ginn comes back. He's unlikely to get a lot of attention on the free-agent market (he certainly didn't last year), and he won't be expensive to re-sign.
Dashon Goldson (UFA): Coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday that Goldson is the type of player you “reward” with a multiyear deal. But Harbaugh hasn't been exactly spot-on when it comes to promising to take care of pending free agents in the offseason. (Furthermore, the 49ers have balked at Goldson's asking price in the past. He wanted to be one of the highest-paid safeties in the league after the 2010 season. He is in that category now — All-Pro, Pro Bowl in 2012 — but can the 49ers afford to meet that mark after doling out big deals to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, and with Colin Kaepernick's contract looming after next season?
Tavares Gooden (UFA): He's the most athletic of the 49ers' backup linebackers, and he's probably the most talented of the 49ers' coverage players. However, that unit was not as good as it was in 2011, a fact that was triple-underlined in red ink by Jacoby Jones' record kickoff return Sunday.
Jonathan Goodwin: Goodwin is exactly what the 49ers need on the offensive line — a smart, veteran center whose laid-back personalty is the perfect complement to the more fiery Anthony Davis, Alex Boone and Joe Staley. The other offensive linemen almost consider Goodwin, 34, a father figure, and it's unlikely the 49ers will break apart the group. Still, if the 49ers are seeking salary cap relief, this is one of the places to look. Goodwin is due to count more than $5 million against the cap, and there are two youngsters — Kilgore and Looney — who can play center.
Larry Grant (UFA): The team's No. 3 inside linebacker didn't get a lot of attention as a restricted free agent last year, and he could be back next season. Grant is good on special teams and good in the locker room and has shown he's a capable backup if either Willis or Bowman goes down.
Clark Haggans: The veteran rarely played (48 snaps) on a defensive front that did very little substituting at outside linebacker. You have to wonder, in hindsight, whether that was smart. Aldon Smith had 191/2 sacks through the first 13 games, zero in the last six. Haggans likely wants to be on a squad where he is better utilized.
Ricky Jean Francois (UFA): Jean Francois gradually began stealing snaps from Isaac Sopoaga this season at nose tackle, and he also stepped in at defensive end for Justin Smith in the last quarter of the season. Jean Francois is five years younger than Sopoaga, and it's only logical that the 49ers would prefer to retain him over Sopoaga. However, Jean Francois' age and versatility likely will make him more attractive on the free-agent market. This outcome will be determined by how much the 49ers think Jean Francois is worth and whether his agent feels he can get more money elsewhere.
Darcel McBath (UFA): McBath would have been the first safety in the game if anything had happened to Goldson or Donte Whitner. Along with Willis, he snuffed out the fake field-goal attempt in the Super Bowl. But he also had the only shot to tackle Jones on the kickoff to start the second half. (Spoiler: He missed.) McBath's status will depend on how confident the 49ers are with youngsters Trenton Robinson and Michael Thomas.
Randy Moss (UFA): As we discovered last week, Moss wasn't happy with his backup role and wanted to be a bigger part of the offense. When he got that chance in the playoffs, Moss played well but certainly didn't take over games or play like the “greatest receiver” of all time. He was merely decent. It's hard to envision any other teams giving Moss a better opportunity than he received in San Francisco. Furthermore, the injuries to Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams mean Moss probably is needed more by the 49ers than by any other team. That all points to Moss being back. But he's been enigmatic over his career, and predicting what he'll do is a fool's game.
Alex Smith: Don't buy into the posturing by 49ers officials that Smith could be back in 2013. That scenario would be too much even for a good soldier like Smith, and the stink he'd be capable of raising would be terrible for the team's locker room morale. Instead, the 49ers will try to trade Smith, who is only 28 and who is one of the few worthy quarterbacks in free agency and the draft this year. That, plus a reasonable contract, makes a trade plausible. If it's a trade, the 49ers will try to deal him out of the conference. Kansas City, Cleveland, Jacksonville and the Raiders are possibilities.
Isaac Sopoaga (UFA): Sopoaga played fewer snaps this season, and he even lost his job moonlighting as a fullback. Whether he returns or not may depend on how much attention Jean Francois gets on the free-agent market.
Delanie Walker (UFA): Walker is the 49ers' No. 2 tight end but would be No. 1 on 20 other teams. He's become an excellent blocker, especially on the move, and is nearly as fast as Vernon Davis. His hands are puzzling — they were excellent when he first entered the league but have been dubious as he's gotten bigger and concentrated more on blocking. That facet of his game should improve with more practice. Walker should get attention on the free-agent market. He was very good in the Super Bowl.
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