If the 49ers make it to a fourth-straight NFC Championship game next season, they might have to do it with a drastically different group.
It starts with Bill Walsh Award winner Anquan Boldin, who might have played his last game with San Francisco in Sunday night's 23-17 loss to the Seahawks. Boldin is a free agent and won't come cheaply after leading the 49ers in both receptions (85) and yards (1179) with seven touchdowns in the regular season. He notched a team-leading 227 yards and a touchdown in their three playoff games. The award is given to the team's most valuable player as voted on by coaches.
Boldin, 33, came to the 49ers last spring with one year and $6 million remaining on his contract. San Francisco has been looking to maximize cap space (that rolls over) to prepare for potential contract extensions for Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Aldon Smith, Mike Iupati and others that will be coming off their rookie deals following next season.
Entering his fourth year in the NFL, Kaepernick could potentially hold out for an extension after leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl and NFC title game in his two seasons as starter. He's scheduled to make $973,766 next season, according to Spotrac.com. For perspective, Joe Flacco signed a 6-year, $120.6 million deal after winning the Super Bowl last year. Tony Romo signed a 6-year, $108 million deal with the Cowboys in March and is still looking for his first playoff win. Jay Cutler received a 7-year deal that could be worth as much as $126.7, with $54 million in guarantees earlier this month.
Boldin will likely look for a multi-year deal even in his advanced age thanks to his high level of production and leadership qualities he provides. But given the makeup of the 49ers' roster, giving a Boldin a multi-year deal at market price would make extending all those players in their physical prime more difficult.
Strong safety Donte Whitner is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Whitner was one of the league's most productive safeties during the regular season, but continues to become a target of unnecessary roughness penalties, as he did in the first half of Sunday's loss to the Seahawks. He also let Doug Baldwin get behind him on a key 51-yard reception in the first half.
Whitner will be 29 next season and is a candidate for the franchise tag depending on how San Francisco evaluates the free agent market and draft pool. The team let Dashon Goldson walk last year before drafting Eric Reid in the first round of last spring's draft. Goldson was franchised in his last year with the 49ers before leaving for a lucrative deal with Tampa Bay.
Frank Gore is set to cost $6.45 million against the cap in 2014. He will be 31 and coming off a 11-carry, 14-yard performance in the NFC Championship game. With Marcus Lattimore figuring into the equation next season after "red shirtting" his rookie year, Gore could be looking at a reduced role that won't be in line with his cap figure. The 49ers will strongly consider trying to restructure Gore's contract.
Carlos Rogers, 32, had the 49ers' second-highest cap number this season. And although he remains a productive player, he's on the wrong side of his prime and likely won't return at his $8.1 million rate next year. San Francisco will either release Rogers or force him to take a massive pay cut. Rogers was in coverage on Jermaine Kearse's crucial touchdown early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss.
Tarell Brown, 29, is also a free agent. It didn't bode well for Brown's chances at returning when Tramaine Brock signed a 4-year, $16 million extension in November. Brown missed out on a $2 million workout bonus in the spring when he elected to workout in his native Texas instead of the 49ers' facility. The team will strongly consider addressing corner in the early rounds of the draft.
San Francisco might also have to grapple with the possibility of losing key cogs of their coaching staff. Greg Roman remains a hot candidate for either a pro or collegiate head coaching job. The Browns are currently the only NFL team still looking for a head coach.
Center Jonathan Goodwin might have also played his last game with the team's talented offensive line. Goodwin didn't miss a start in his three seasons with the team. But he indicated earlier this season that he would consider retirement following the season.
Kicker Phil Dawson is a free agent and had an outstanding year for the 49ers, hitting 37 of his last 38 field goals and being perfect on extra points. Dawson counted for $2.35 million against the cap in 2013. He's 38-years-old.
49ers 2014 Free Agents
Demarcus Dobbs (restricted)
Michael Wilhoite (exclusive rights)
49ers 2015 Free Agents
Garrett Celek (restricted)
Tony Jerod-Eddie (exclusive rights)
Brandon Carswell (exclusive rights)
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