The 49ers could have over $100 million to spend on free agency after the season. They also have a bevy of free agents, including high profile players such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Eric Reid and Carlos Hyde. General manager John Lynch already said he’s contacted some agents about extensions, but he wouldn’t say who he’s contacted. Here’s how the team should prioritize their free agents.
1. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo: If rookie C.J. Beathard continues to excel, Garoppolo might never see the field or might see it sparingly. If that’s the case, there will be no basis for a long term deal and the team will use the $25 million franchise tag on him. However, if something happens to Beathard, or if he takes a step back, Garoppolo could be in store for a long-term contract.
2. Defensive end Tank Carradine: Why is Carradine second and not Carlos Hyde? Carradine fits defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s requirements at the Big End position and those players are hard to find. Carradine played well before tearing ligaments in his ankle. The 49ers will be watching him closely over the next six games.
3. Running back Carlos Hyde: As general manager John Lynch said, Hyde has answered a lot of his questions. He’s completely turned himself around after complaining about playing time early in the season. However, he doesn’t quite have the speed to fit the system. Even if he does sign, the 49ers might use a high draft pick on a running back.
4. Cornerback Dontae Johnson: The lanky cover man has played well and cornerbacks are expensive. Whether he returns depends on what he asks for and how the 49ers assess the market.
5. Safety Eric Reid: If rookie Adrian Colbert continues to play well coming back from thumb surgery, there might not be a place for Reid as a safety. The 49ers also want the injured Jaquiski Tarrt back next year (on injured reserve with a broken forearm). It means Reid might have to move to linebacker if he wants to stay with the team, and he probably doesn’t want to do that.
6. Linebacker Brock Coyle: He’s a solid special teams guy and he’s played surprisingly well as the middle linebacker. Next year, however, the team wants Reuben Foster in the middle and they will return Malcolm Smith as the outside linebacker. Eric Reid, if he re-signs, might also play on the outside. However, Coyle could be very valuable as a backup.
7. Guard Brandon Fusco: Of the interior three linemen, Fusco’s played the best, even though his partially torn biceps limited him. He’s worth re-signing, even if he’s a backup.
8. Center Daniel Kilgore: You always hope Kilgore plays well. He’s a smart guy who can help a rookie or new quarterback. He’s also a great locker-room guy. However, Kilgore has struggled at times and the 49ers might not offer him a contract.
9. Defensive end Leger Douzable: He’s a eight-year player and a journey man. But he jumps off the film when you turn on a 49ers’ game. He wouldn’t be expensive and he could serve as a productive rotational player on the defensive line.
10. Pass rusher Aaron Lynch: The once promising player has missed half the season with injury. He will have to really turn it on to get the team’s attention and might even be released to make room for Carradine before Sunday’s game.
The rest: DB Leon Hall, TE Logan Paulsen, CB Antone Exum Jr., WR Louis Murphy. These players are mostly injury-replacements and would have to make their mark in the final six games to be offered contracts.