It's possible that the 49ers could let veteran cornerback Tarell Brown (No. 25, above) walk away in free agency this offseason. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
After last season, the 49ers said goodbye to tight end Delanie Walker, safety Dashon Goldson and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga.
All were important contributors to San Francisco's Super Bowl season.
Now that the 2013 season has ended – just one victory shy of a second straight Super Bowl appearance – which 49ers are bound for other teams in 2014?
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee pointed out, the 49ers will likely part with several veterans this offseason who were key parts of a San Francisco team that has gone to three straight NFC Championship Games.
With an eye toward next offseason – when players such as quarterback Colin Kaepernick, linebacker Aldon Smith, guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Michael Crabtree all can become unrestricted free agents – 49ers GM Trent Baalke will need to spend wisely this offseason to have money under the cap to retain some or all of those players, while also retaining key free agents this offseason and bringing in rookies through the draft.
Among the 49ers set to become free agents are kicker Phil Dawson safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Tarell Brown and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to his team one last time Monday before the players’ offseason departure and told his team he’d like to keep it together as much as possible. But some departures are inevitable, and the players know that.
“There’s some stuff even he can’t control as much as he wants to control it,” said cornerback Carlos Rogers.
Center Jonathan Goodwin, who’s 35, could be another player the 49ers might decide not to retain. They have younger, less expensive linemen in Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney who might be able to step into his role.
Tweeted Goodwin after Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks: “Probably the 1st time in my life I don’t know what the future holds for me. Whatever it is, I will be ready for it. #blessed.”
But it’s believed that Brown, a starter at corner for the 49ers all three seasons under Harbaugh until sidelined by injury this season, might be the most vulnerable.
“I would love to come back,” Brown told Barrows. “Like I told my coaches, I enjoy playing with this group, the fight in these guys, the type of work we do during the week, the way guys prepare. You can see just by watching film how guys fight for each other.”
But with the emergence of Tramaine Brock and the signing of less-expensive Eric Wright and Perrish Cox this year, the 49ers might let Brown go. Also, the 49ers could reach for a cornerback with their No. 1 pick at the tail end of the first round in May.
Other unrestricted free agents: running back Anthony Dixon, wideout Mario Manningham, quarterback Colt McCoy, safety Donte Whitner and special teams ace Kassim Osgood.
Brown said he’d love it if the 49ers could keep the roster intact – even though in the NFL there’s turnover for every team after every season.
“It’s hard,” he told Barrows. “With the salary cap and with so many free agents. … But they’re doing a great job here. They’re putting pieces in and making it work. And look where we ended up, one opportunity from being in the Super Bowl again.”