Teams can retain the rights to players with fewer than three years of NFL experience (and whose contracts have expired) through the simple process of extending a qualifying offer to these exclusive-rights free agents.
The 49ers have three such exclusive-rights free agents, and they are likely to tender only one of them. An EFA who is tendered can’t negotiate with another team. A non-tendered EFA becomes a free agent who can sign with any team:
–K Shane Andrus: He is expected to receive a tender today to remain property of the 49ers. Andrus, 29, has some experience as a punter, and he might do that again in training camp with the 49ers. (With Joe Nedney and Andy Lee locked in as 49ers’ specialists in the past, the 49ers have managed to find an individual in each camp to take on the dual role of punter/kicker.) Andrus will definitely kick. And he’ll be competing for an NFL roster spot. Nedney turns 37 this month. He remains the odds-on favorite to begin the season as the kicker, but Andrus can open some doors with a strong offseason. Andrus has kicked around in the NFL a little, with multiple stays with the Colts and Buccaneers.
–RB Thomas Clayton: He will not be tendered. The 49ers spoke with Clayton on Wednesday and informed him of their decision to allow him to go elsewhere to find the best situation for him to win an elusive roster spot. He continues to rehabilitate a torn ACL that he sustained in the exhibition opener last summer. If things don’t work out elsewhere, the 49ers would be open to bringing him back for another camp. Clayton was a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2007. He had some good moments during exhibition seasons, but spent most of his time with the 49ers on the practice squad. He was promoted to the 53-man roster for two games at the end of 2008, but did not see any action.
—K Ricky Schmitt: He will not be tendered. Schmitt had his big chance to play in a couple NFL games, but he was injured in practice after his first game and had to be replaced for the finale. Teams have little tolerance for injuries – especially from kickers.
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