Though the 49ers face a few tough calls this offseason about their own free agents, the team is in relatively good position.
Most of the Niners’ starters are under contract for at least one more season or longer, and the team sits in a good spot in relation to the salary cap, which would allow it some flexibility over the next few months as it begins preparing for the 2013 season.
The 49ers also have 14 choices in this April’s draft, which would allow them to replace some veterans with younger talent or trade picks for specific needs.
According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, only four 49ers starters are approaching unrestricted free agency: tight end Delanie Walker (who officially backs up Vernon Davis but often is on the field in two tight-end sets), wide receiver Randy Moss, nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and safety Dashon Goldson.
Also, backup defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois will be an unrestricted free agent.
The Niners are reported to be a bit less than $3 million under the NFL salary cap, so they aren’t going to be under severe salary constraints. By comparison, the Baltimore Ravens – who beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday, 34-31 – go into the offseason a reported $5 million over the cap and face some very tough choices.
Goldson, who has teamed with Donte Whitner to form a strong pair of safeties the past two seasons, was given the franchise tag to keep him for 2012, which cost about $7.5 million. If the Niners want to keep him for 2013, it would cost about the same amount.
The team will likely gain $1 million toward the cap with the release or trade of now-backup quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is guaranteed that amount, but would also command an additional $6.5 million if he remains on the roster after April 1, which is unlikely.
Releasing kicker David Akers would also gain the 49ers a bit more than $3 million in cap space.
Moss, who was signed by the 49ers for just one season, didn’t put up big numbers in 2012 and is now 35, and he could retire or be released if the team chooses to go in a different direction. But throughout the season, head coach Jim Harbaugh talked about the intangibles Moss brought to his team, and in the lead-up week to the Super Bowl told reporters, “I, for one, definitely want Randy to come back. Hope he feels the same way.”
On the other hand, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams – who missed the Super Bowl because of injuries – will be back and first-round 2012 draft choice A.J. Jenkins will get another chance to make an impact, so the 49ers don’t necessarily have to have Moss.
Goldson told Breer that he wants to return for another season, and he’d like another chance to get back to the Super Bowl with this year's cast.
“It took a lot of hard work,” he told Breer. “But if everyone’s still intact, I don’t see why we can’t get back here.”