49ers enter offseason with 19 free agents

The 49ers are going to have a new coach eventually. Once they do, they will have to make decisions on their 19 free agents.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - While the San Francisco 49ers are into the second week of their coaching search, there are other questions facing the organization this offseason.

The team has 19 free agents, including seven that saw significant playing time on offense and defense in 2014. San Francisco has exclusive negotiating rights with those players before March 10, when the new league year starts. Only then can those players begin talking to other teams.

Here's a quick rundown of those 19 players (cap numbers via overthecap.com)

Frank Gore, 31, running back

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $6,450,000

Gore ended his 2014 season with a flurry, amassing 302 combined rushing yards in his last two games. He turns 32 in May, typically too old with too many miles to be considered a bell cow running back. At some point, time will catch up with Gore. But it didn't happen as many expected in 2014. He has said he wants to come back to San Francisco, but is awaiting to see what happens with the coaching situation. There's also the question of how much Gore wants to make, and whether or not a contender will offer him what he's looking for. Gore and general manager Trent Baalke have had conversations about a return to the 49ers in 2015 after posting his seventh 1,100-yard season in his 10-year career.

Michael Crabtree, 27, wide receiver

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $4,770,443

Crabtree had a down year in line with the rest of San Francisco's disappointing offense. He had 10 drops, per Pro Football Focus, tied for the third most among NFL receivers. A year removed from his Achilles tear, it didn't appear Crabtree had the same separation skills as he did before the injury, when he led the 49ers with a career-best 1,105 yards during the Super Bowl season of 2012. Crabtree and his camp came into 2014 hoping to land franchise-type money either with San Francisco or on the open market this spring, but that won't happen after his 698-yard season in which he famously called himself the team's "third option" after November's overtime win in New Orleans. Unless Crabtree is willing to come back at the market rate and not the high number he's looking for, it appears the two sides are destined to part ways.

Mike Iupati, 27, left guard

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $4,625,863

Iupati remains one of the best power-blocking guards in football, earning his third straight Pro-Bowl nod in 2014. But he tied for the NFL lead among guards with seven sacks allowed, per PFF. Iupati never looked fully healthy after sustaining a fracture to his lower leg in last season's conference title game in Seattle, but is likely to garner a lucrative deal on the open market. Given their needs elsewhere, the 49ers would be hard pressed to pay Iupati the going rate, making it likely he's played his last game with San Francisco. If center Daniel Kilgore can return from his broken ankle next season, expect second-year player Marcus Martin to be the favorite start at left guard if Iupati signs elsewhere. The team also has Brandon Thomas, a third-round pick from last season, who "red shirted" in 2014 after tearing an ACL during a pre draft workout.

Blaine Gabbert, 25, quarterback

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $2,011,587

Gabbert did not impress fans last preseason, leaving many to fear the repercussions of an injury to Colin Kaepernick. But Kaepernick stayed healthy for the third straight year, allowing Gabbert just nine snaps all season coming at the end of the blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. With Jim Harbaugh gone, who liked Gabbert leading into the 2011 draft, the 49ers are likely to add multiple quarterbacks this spring, either through the free agency or the draft. How they go about that will depend on the team's new coaching regime.

Dan Skuta, 28, outside linebacker

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $1,650,000

Skuta did well transitioning from the inside linebacker spot to the edge, thanks to his work with defensive coordinator and position coach Vic Fangio over the last two seasons. He turned into a key piece of the defense with Aldon Smith missing a combined 14 games due to off-the-field issues since the start of 2013. Skuta has said he would like to return next season, particularly if Fangio is retained either as head coach or defensive coordinator. But with impressive rookie Aaron Lynch entering his second year, Skuta might have a hard time getting the volume of snaps he might receive elsewhere. Other 3-4 teams with holes at outside linebacker might consider Skuta for a starting job. But San Francisco might be inclined to bring him back if they part ways with Ahmad Brooks, who is earmarked for a $9,648,750 cap hit in 2015, after being benched in two separate games this season.

Brandon Lloyd, 33, wide receiver

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $1,005,000

Lloyd made a few crucial catches for the 49ers after being out of football in 2013. But it appears he was a pet project by offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is all but gone. Lloyd represented the deep threat the offense needed, but made just 14 catches on 35 targets, for 294 yards and one score. The 49ers need to infuse young talent in the receiving corps, making it unlikely Lloyd returns to the team to impeded the progress of Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, and any other additions via the draft or free agency.

Kassim Osgood, 34, wide receiver/special teams

Unrestricted free agent
Ended season on injured reserve (hand)
IR cap hit: $374,471

Osgood was good, again, as a gunner on special teams. But at 35 years old, it's hard to imagine the 49ers opting to pay him the veteran minimum, which is significantly more than a younger player would make. Gunners typically aren't very hard to find, making it unlikely Osgood returns as a core special teams player in 2015.

Bubba Ventrone, 28, safety/special teams

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $335,294

Ventrone was another key contributor on special teams. It will be up to the new coaching staff to help the front office decide if he is worth having back on the 90-man roster with a shot to make the 53 next September.

Josh Johnson, 28, quarterback

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $335,294

Johnson arguably had a better preseason showing than Gabbert, but was unable to win the backup job behind Kaepernick. His history with Harbaugh from his time at the University of San Diego played a role on rejoining his college coach in San Francisco, making it unlikely the 49ers would want to bring him back next season. Johnson was never on the active 46-man roster in 2014.

Chris Cook, 27, cornerback

Unrestricted free agent
Ended season on injured reserve (hamstring)
2014 cap hit: $570,000

Cook did well to make the roster and earn time as a reserve, but a torn hamstring midway through the season landed him on injured reserve, allowing rookie Dontae Johnson to have a prominent role. If Fangio is back with secondary coach Ed Donatell, Cook might return to San Francisco. He has good size and is a good fit for the defense. But if the defensive coaching staff changes, his chances of returning to San Francisco are 50-50 at best.

Desmond Bishop, 30, inside linebacker

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $67,059

Bishop was brought in late in the year after the team lost standout rookie Chris Borland with an ankle injury. Bishop played just three snaps and appears unlikely to return to the 49ers, who are expecting Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Borland to all be healthy heading into the summer.

Perrish Cox, 27, cornerback

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $695,000

Cox got off to a great start in 2014 after he was inserted into the starting lineup to take over for Tramaine Brock. But his play declined significantly in the season half of the year. In his first eight games, quarterbacks had a 42.27 rating with six pass breakups when targeting Cox in coverage. But in his final eight games, that number ballooned to 109.59 and he had two PBUs. He still finished tied for the league lead among corners with five interceptions and allowed just three touchdowns. Cox's ability to play both the nickel position and the outside will give him appeal on the open market. He's another player keeping a close eye on the coaching situation, and what happens with the next player on this list...

Chris Culliver, 26, cornerback

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $1,580,719

Culliver returned from an ACL tear that cost him the entire 2013 season to have a solid year, making 14 starts at right cornerback. He allowed a 66.5 passer rating when targeted, the sixth-best mark among corners, according to PFF. Given Culliver is still relatively young with good size (6'0", 200 pounds) and speed, he could garner a very lucrative offer on the open market. But Culliver is a favorite of general manager Trent Baalke, who took the former safety in the third round in 2011. Culliver's potential is sky high, but his off-the-field transgressions will give teams pause when considering him for a hefty raise. Given the way Cox's play dropped off as the season went along, Culliver appears to be the better bet to return to San Francisco - if the money is right.

Phillip Tanner, 26, running back

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $75,882

Tanner was brought on late in the season after Carlos Hyde went down with an ankle injury. He did not play an offensive snap with the 49ers. It remains unclear if he will be given an opportunity on the team's 90-man roster heading into the offseason program.

Alfonso Smith, 27, running back/special teams

Unrestricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $265,588

Smith was brought on late during training camp and returned to the team later in the regular season to provide depth to the team's thin group at running back. He received 34 offensive snaps, getting seven carries for 19 yards while also contributing on special teams. Like Tanner, Smith's status with the team remains up in the air.

Michael Wilhoite, 28, inside linebacker

Restricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $570,000

Wilhoite is a restricted free agent, meaning the 49ers have the ability to match an offer he receives at the start of free agency. If he does not sign an offer sheet with another team by mid-April, San Francisco retains exclusive negotiating rights. Wilhoite was one of the few 49ers players on defense to make at 16 starts, playing a central role in the league's fifth-ranked defense. He finished third on the team with 85 combined tackles. His status is up the air considering another team might be willing to give him a starter's salary, while the 49ers will enter the season hoping he is a backup to Willis and Bowman.

Kyle Nelson, 28, long snapper

Restricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $570,000

Nelson was adequate in snapping the ball, but also showed a willingness to make tackles in punt coverage, which is an added bonus for the position. Like Wilhoite, he is a restricted free agent.

Garrett Celek, 26, tight end

Restricted free agent
2014 cap hit: $572,000

Celek only appeared in three games after undergoing back surgery before last summer's training camp, before sustaining an ankle injury late in the season that landed him on injured reserve. Another restricted free agent, Celek's status will be tied to the direction of the new offensive coaching staff.

Tony Jerod-Eddie, 24, defensive end

Exclusive rights free agent
2014 cap hit: $495,000

Jerod-Eddie is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he will almost certainly be back with San Francisco next season. He has improved steadily over his last two seasons after going undrafted out of Texas A&M and can play both end and nose in the team's 3-4 scheme. With Ray McDonald no longer on the team and Justin Smith contemplating retirement, Jerod-Eddie could see his role in the rotation increase significantly in 2015.

Next story:

How Kaepernick can improve with Warner

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