New era of NFL free agency kicks off

There are 531 professional football players looking for work this evening, as a new era in the NFL kicked off. It’s official. The 2010 season will not have a salary cap.

The 49ers are expected to take it slow and easy in free agency. The club is not expected to schedule any free-agent visits over the weekend. And there’s a better-than-even chance the 49ers will not gather any starters during the free-agent signing period.

Instead, the team plans to focus on the draft. The 49ers have three of the top 49 picks in the draft.

49ers restricted free agents

There are 216 restricted free agents in the NFL who received qualifying offers from their old clubs and are subject to the first refusal/compensation system of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The old club has a right of first refusal to all players listed below. Draft-pick compensation is also listed. In order to submit an offer sheet, a new club must have available the required choice or choices, defined as its own or better choices in the applicable rounds, in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Offer sheets may be submitted to an old club by no later than 8:59:59 p.m. (PT), Thursday, April 14.

G David Baas (3rd-round compensation)

LB Ahmad Brooks (2nd-round compensation)

49ers franchise player

Five players with three or more accrued seasons who have been designated as franchise players.  The old club has a right of first refusal to the players listed below and compensation of two first-round draft choices.  In order to submit an offer sheet, a new club must have available the required choices, defined as its own or better choices in the first round in the 2010 and 2011 NFL Drafts.  Offer sheets may be submitted to an old club until 1 p.m. (PT), Tuesday following the 10th regular-season weekend (November 16).

NT Aubrayo Franklin

49ers unrestricted free agents

These players are free to sign immediately with whichever club they choose:

WR Arnaz Battle

CB Dre’ Bly

CB Walt Harris

T Tony Pashos

S Mark Roman

T Barry Sims

LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired)

Also, these players with fewer than six years experience received no qualifying offer from the 49ers:

K Shane Andrus

RB Thomas Clayton

CB Marcus Hudson

P Ricky Schmitt

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