NFL Free Agency

Previewing 49ers' difficult decisions on unrestricted free agents

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While the early negotiating period for NFL free agents kicks off on Monday, the 49ers have been able to hold talks with their own players whose contracts are set to expire.

Veteran guard Jon Feliciano is the 49ers’ only offensive starter who is scheduled for free agency, and general manager John Lynch last week made it clear he wishes to re-sign him.

“Turned out he was a really good scheme fit,” Lynch said of Feliciano at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “But what we knew every day is, this guy is a glue guy. This is a guy who brings groups together, brings people together. Tough, crusty O-lineman.”

The 49ers will look to fill out their roster with the re-signings of some of their own free agents while also looking outside the building for players who can step into roles.

Players are allowed to enter into negotiations with other teams beginning Monday morning. The free-agent signing period officially opens Wednesday, March 13, at 1 p.m.

Here is a complete rundown of the 49ers’ scheduled unrestricted free agents on offense (ranked from top to bottom in playing time or depth chart):

G Jon Feliciano

Feliciano got his first opportunity to start as a fill-in for injured Aaron Banks at left guard in the middle of the season. Then, Feliciano moved into the lineup at right guard in place of struggling Spencer Burford. Feliciano’s pectoral injury in the second half of Super Bowl LVIII was a big moment. Burford busted an assignment on a third-down play in overtime that left Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones unblocked.

He said he turned down other free-agent opportunities a year ago in order to chase a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers. Even if Feliciano re-signs, the team still will be expected to look at adding a starting-caliber offensive lineman in the draft.

TE Charlie Woerner

In his fourth NFL season, Woerner saw an increase in playing time on offense while continuing to be one of the 49ers’ core special-teams contributors. Used as a blocking specialist, Woerner appeared in every game for the third consecutive season and played 29 percent of the offensive plays. In 74 games (including playoffs), Woerner has 11 receptions for 120 yards. He could be back to fill that specific role.

WR Ray-Ray McCloud

McCloud served as the team’s return specialist the past two seasons while also catching 26 passes for 378 yards in 29 games.

Currently, the 49ers do not have anyone else on the roster who looks confident fielding punts. So, either the 49ers bring back McCloud or they will use free agency or the draft to address that need.

QB Sam Darnold

The 49ers want to bring back Darnold, but he might have opportunities elsewhere. Darnold signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the 49ers at the beginning of free agency a year ago at a time when it was unknown whether Brock Purdy would be ready for the start of the regular season. Lynch said Darnold could have gotten a better contract from other teams.

Six quarterbacks could be chosen in the first round and, perhaps, each of those teams will be eyeing a veteran who can be a bridge quarterback or be solid in a supporting role for a young player.

WR Chris Conley

Conley, 31, a nine-year NFL veteran, appeared in eight regular-season games and caught three passes for 69 yards. His big contribution came in the divisional round when he had a 17-yard reception on the 49ers’ late, game-winning drive when Deebo Samuel was out of action. He could be back with the possibility of breaking camp on the practice squad as insurance.

TE Ross Dwelley

Dwelley’s season ended with a high-ankle sprain in Week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Dwelley has been with the 49ers for each of his six NFL seasons on a series of one-year contracts. After selecting tight ends Cameron Latu and Brayden Willis in the 2023 NFL Draft, the 49ers will look for those players to step up.

OL Ben Bartch

The 49ers signed Bartch off Jacksonville’s practice squad in November. Bartch, 25, showed the 49ers good things in a short period of time, as he ended up active as a backup for five regular-season games and all three postseason games. It’s likely the 49ers want to bring him back for a full offseason in order for him to compete for a roster spot.

OT Matt Pryor

Pryor started 24 games over his previous three seasons with Philadelphia and Indianapolis before signing with the 49ers. He was on the field for just 42 offensive snaps last season as a backup tackle. He was inactive for all three postseason games.

QB Brandon Allen

Allen did not take a snap in any regular-season game. He was the emergency third quarter for the first 16 games. Then, he suited up as Darnold’s backup for Week 17, when the 49ers rested many of their top players.

It seems likely the 49ers will want Allen back. Depending on what happens with Darnold, he could even be in a position to land the job as Purdy’s backup.

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