Now that the season is over, the 49ers have some tough decisions to make regarding which free agents return to the team and which leave. Last year, the 49ers allowed important role players such as Dashon Goldson and Delanie Walker leave for free agency. Both players were picked up very quickly, but the 49ers did a decent job of replacing through the draft. With players such as Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, and Michael Crabtree needing new contracts, the 49ers are going to have to let some key players go. If the 49ers want to continue to make deep post-season runs, they’re going to need replace the talent they are sure to lose, through the draft.
The 49ers have a plethora of draft picks, and that allows them some leverage with free agents and allows them to let some otherwise irreplaceable players, go. Players like Tarrell Brown, Jonathon Goodwin, Anthony Dixon, and Mario Manningham are examples of the talent that will probably experience this. All of these players had important roles on the team but will probably still be let go because the 49ers have so many chances to hit on draft picks. Nonetheless, there are still some players that 49ers should take a long, hard look at before they let them go.
Anquan Boldin: Where would have the 49ers been without Boldin? After Crabtree went down, the 49ers’ only viable threat on the outside was Boldin. Boldin recorded 1179 receiving yards, which was only the second 49er to do it since Terrell Owens did it in 2003. In a perfect world, the 49ers would be able to re-sign Boldin to a modest contract and he would continue his level of play. But it’s not a perfect world, and Boldin is 33 years old and has a history of being stubborn in contract talks. The only reason why the 49ers were able to acquire Boldin is because Boldin wouldn’t take a pay cut for the Ravens, and the 49ers were willing to pay his salary. Even so, the 49ers should do everything possible to try and keep Boldin in a 49ers uniform. He did so much for the team both on and off the field, and it would be hard to replace him.
Donte Whitner: Whitner had a great season this year. He bounced back from an awful season, in terms of coverage, in 2012. Whitner is a veteran and a leader of the defense and the team. Unfortunately, Whitner might demand a pretty hefty paycheck, and the 49ers might not want to shell out a lot of cash for the 28 year old safety. If the 49ers can’t find the money to pay Whitner, then they’d be losing a veteran presence in the secondary and the locker room.
Michael Wilhoite: Initial reports are saying that NaVorro Bowman will be ready for the 2014 season, but in case he can’t the 49ers need someone to fill for him until he can. Wilhoite did a very good job at filling in for Patrick Willis when he was out for a few games this season. The good news for the 49ers is that Wilhoite isn’t a big name so he shouldn’t be expense to keep.
Eric Wright: Wright didn’t see much game time this season because of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart, but he will have a chance this year, with the turnover at the corner position. The 49ers will need a nickel cornerback since Carlos Rogers is most likely gone. They will probably have Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver as the starters and Wright will compete with a rookie for the nickel role. If he’s willing to come back to the 49ers for a modest contract, he could see a good amount of playing time.
Phil Dawson: After a disastrous season by David Akers in 2012, the 49ers went out and picked up Phil Dawson to try and get stability at the kicker position. They got exactly what they paid for. Dawson was 32/36 in the regular season, and actually set a 49ers’ record by kicking 26 consecutive field goals. The only downside is that Dawson is 38 years old. But still, the 49ers should keep him until he proves he can’t kick the ball through the uprights anymore.