NFL Free Agency

49ers won't use franchise tag; Jennings RFA tender decision looms

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Beginning on Tuesday until March 5, each NFL team is allowed to use its franchise tag to hold contractual control over their top free agent on a one-year deal.

Again, the 49ers will sit this one out. They do not have anyone who fits the profile of a franchise player whose contract is set to expire.

The 49ers’ top free agency priority might be restricted free-agent wide receiver Jauan Jennings, whose profile increased with a strong Super Bowl LVIII showing.

There are three options for Jennings, the team’s No. 3 wide receiver who might become even more important to the 49ers with Brandon Aiyuk’s uncertain status as he eyes a new contract this offseason.

With each level the 49ers could tender Jennings, it comes with varying degrees of compensation the club would receive if he ends up signing a more-lucrative offer sheet with another club.

The least-likely scenario is the 49ers providing Jennings with a first-round tender, which estimates to be $6.464 million for one season. In that scenario, if Jennings were to sign a multi-year contract with another team and San Francisco decline to match, it would receive a first-round draft pick as compensation.

The second-round tender is estimated at $4.633 million. Perhaps the most likely option for the 49ers is the Right of First Refusal tender, which would pay Jennings $2.828 million for the 2024 season.

Jennings had four receptions for 42 yards, including a go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown catch from Brock Purdy in the 49ers' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII. He also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey in the first half.

Meanwhile, the 49ers control Aiyuk on the fifth-year option for the 2024 season, but a potentially acrimonious offseason of negotiations could be in store for both sides.

The 49ers likely are to work toward a multi-year extension for Jennings to remove him from the market entirely before free agency starts on March 5.

If the 49ers and Jennings are unable to work out a new contract, the 49ers would have to tender him at one of the three levels before free agency begins. Jennings would then have until April 19 to sign an offer sheet with another club.

The 49ers will again not be involved with the franchise tag.

The only time the 49ers have used the franchise tag during John Lynch’s tenure as general manager was in 2019, when they placed the designation on kicker Robbie Gould. The sides eventually came together on a four-year contract extension, which was agreed upon in mid-July of that year.

None of the 49ers’ scheduled unrestricted free agents meets the high standard for receiving the franchise tag, which comes at a steep price. The one-year cost of the franchise tag is the top five salaries at a player's position over the past five years applied to the current salary cap.

Among the 49ers’ scheduled unrestricted free agents are defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Chase Young, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Randy Gregory and Sebastian Joseph-Day; guard Jon Feliciano; receivers Ray-Ray McCloud and Chris Conley; tight ends Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner; linebackers Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles; defensive backs Tashaun Gipson and Logan Ryan; and reserve quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Brandon Allen.

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