The 49ers and free agency

The 49ers have 15 players who are unsigned for 2011. Here's a look at the team's free agents -- and our take on which ones they should try to keep and which ones they should let go.

If you follow the San Francisco 49ers closely, you're undoubtedly aware that as the clock keeps ticking toward the end of the league year, they've done nothing about their free agents. Not even a franchise tender.

At the moment, the Niners have 15 players on their roster who are unsigned for next season. When the collective bargaining agreement ends Thursday at 9 p.m., they – and every other team in the NFL – will be unable to sign or trade players until there's a new CBA in place.

It's uncertain how free agency will change once there's a new agreement in place between owners and players, but let's take a look at the players who would likely hit the open market under the old CBA – and who we think the 49ers would be wise to keep around.

Keep them: S Dashon Goldson, LB Manny Lawson, LB Takeo Spikes, C David Baas, G Tony Wragge, NT Aubrayo Franklin, OLB Travis LaBoy.

Comment: The Niners used the franchise tag on Franklin last season but were clearly reluctant to do so again given the high price tag. If they can get a long-term deal done, they will. Baas has earned a long-term contract himself after taking over at center for Eric Heitmann and playing well. Spikes could get offered a one-year deal, but Lawson and Goldson might test the market.

Wait and see: QB Alex Smith, DT Ray McDonald, T Barry Sims, K Jeff Reed.

Comment: Until the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh as their head coach, we wouldn't have put Smith in this group. But Harbaugh likes him, and a work stoppage might make Smith more valuable if there's a small window for making trades and signing players. Sims is 36, but his experience might be helpful because of the team's young offensive line. McDonald is a versatile player on the defensive line, and Reed might be available option if kicker Joe Nedney is unable to fully recover from his injuries.

Gone for good: QB Troy Smith, RB Brian Westbrook, DT Demetric Evans, CB Will James.

Comment: Troy Smith might have been a good backup option had Harbaugh not expressed such a liking for Alex Smith. Westbrook would fit well in a West Coast offense, but Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke spoke highly of rookie Anthony Dixon recently without mentioning Westbrook. Would they rethink things? We hope so. Neither Evans nor James played much; the Niners can do better.

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