The nucleus of the 49ers roster should remain intact as only two starters in 2009 have contracts set to expire at the end of February.
Here is a run down of the team’s contract situation.
Unrestricted free agents
The 49ers have exclusive negotiating rights to these players up to the opening of free agency. Then, these players would be free to sign with any team.
LB Takeo Spikes: He made it know Monday that he wants to return to the 49ers, and would regret not being able to play alongside Patrick Willis for another season. Spikes turned 32 a couple weeks ago. But he proved he still has something left. He made $1.68 million last season, and I can’t think of any reason the sides should not agree to a one- or two-year contract.
WR Bryant Johnson: He started 12 games this season, but did not round into full shape until the second half of the season. He sustained a hamstring strain in training camp that led to all kinds of other leg problems through the first part of the season. It was a disappointing year for Johnson, who had hopes of putting together a big season under offensive coordinator Mike Martz and earning a lot of attention on the free-agent market. Still, Johnson was the team’s second-leading receiver with 45 catches for 546 yards and three touchdowns. He played last season with a $2 million contract. The 49ers are intent of moving Josh Morgan to a starting role. For the right price, the 49ers should want to bring back Johnson. But can he find a better opportunity elsewhere?
RB DeShaun Foster: He was signed as an insurance policy for Frank Gore, and Foster looked good in the final three games of the season when Gore was nicked. Foster had 39 carries for 156 yards in games against
KR/PR Allen Rossum: He is 33 years old, but Rossum did a lot of good things in the return game. He ranked sixth in the league in kickoff returns with a 26.8-yard average. If he had enough punt returns to qualify, he would’ve been No. 2 with his 14.9 average. The 49ers need better depth at the return positions, but Rossum is worth another short-term deal.
DT Ronald Fields: He did not make much of an impact this season, ranking 14th on the team in tackles. He was stuck behind starter Aubrayo Franklin, who got the vast majority of the play time. The 49ers would want to bring him back, but it’s would have to be at a price they name. Otherwise, Fields will get a chance to test his worth on the market.:
QB J.T. O’Sullivan: Because he signed a one-year minimum deal, the 49ers can’t re-sign him until after the start of free agency. After a handful of games, it looked like that might be a factor. However, with Martz gone as offensive coordinator, O’Sullivan almost surely will not return, either. Coach Mike Singletary has already talked about brining in a quarterback to compete with Shaun Hill for the starting job.
CB Donald Strickland: The 49ers really like Strickland, and this season we saw why. He does a very good job as an extra defensive back. He’s a very solid player as a reserve, and he’s not afraid to stick his nose in there. He’s 28 years old, and the 49ers would like to bring him back to complete for a job in training camp. Again, there’s no reason the
DE Roderick Green: He had the best chance of his career to show what he could do as a third-down pass-rusher. However, Green was unable to get steady pressure on the quarterback. He recorded only 3.5 sacks. This is another of those spots that Singletary singled out as a position of need. If Green returns, it will be with a lot of competition.
TE Billy Bajema: It’s getting to the point in which Bajema is getting a little too expensive for his role. He made $927,000 this season as a blocking specialist.
OT Damane Duckett: He spent the season on injured reserve because of an August knee injury. The converted defensive lineman spent the entire season rehabbing his injury at the team’s facility. That would seem to suggest that he’ll be brought back to see if he has developed enough to earn a roster spot.
TE Sean Ryan: He did a pretty good job as an H-back/fullback type. However, Ryan was inactive for the final game of the season. They might address this area in the draft.
QB Jamie Martin: He turns 39 in February, and will not be back.
Restricted free agents
The 49ers do not have any restricted free agents because in 2006, the team began doing four-year contracts on draft picks. So the 49ers won’t have another restricted free agent from an original draft pick.
Exclusive rights free agents
This player has fewer than three years of accrued NFL service and the 49ers own exclusive negotiating rights.
FB Zak Keasey: He was doing a pretty good job as a blocker and on special teams before experiencing a season-ending torn biceps tendon in October. The 49ers will likely make the small investment to tender him a contract, and he should be back in camp.
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In addition to the other free agents, these two veterans, who have finished the past two seasons on injured reserve, have salaries that would need to be re-worked in order for them to return:
QB Alex Smith: He is scheduled to earn $9.625 million in base salary. If released, he’ll account for a $5.333 million cap hit.
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