What will the 49ers do with their own: UFAs

The 10-day countdown to the NFL's free agency period begins Monday and, for the first time since 2002, the 49ers will have money to spend on the open market – and room under the salary cap to spend it. San Francisco is an estimated $18 million under the NFL's projected 2005 salary cap figure of $85.5 million. But before they go shopping on the open market, the 49ers first must make decisions regarding the 25 players already on their roster who are scheduled for some form of free agency in 2005.

Today, SFI lists the 11 players currently on the 49ers' roster who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents and takes a brief look at their status with the team before the beginning of the free agency period.

These UFAs are free to negotiate and sign a player contract with any NFL team if they do not sign a new contract with the Niners by March 1:

LB Julian Peterson: The team's offseason upheaval has prevented any progress being made on talks for a new long-term contract for the 49ers' best player. But the All-Pro LB – despite the season-ending Achilles tendon tear he suffered last October, from which he still is recovering - is a central figure in coach Mike Nolan's plans for a revamped defense, so Peterson almost certainly will be slapped again with the franchise tag – like he was in 2004 – guaranteeing him a paycheck of at least $7.3 million in 2005.

WR Cedrick Wilson: Believe it or not, when you get past some of the top names, Wilson is one of the more attractive UFA receivers available on the open market this year. He has expressed a desire to stay in San Francisco, and the improving veteran could be back at the right price to add some stability to a young unit. But he might receive a better offer elsewhere.

WR Curtis Conway: Conway still is a productive player, but the 13th-year veteran doesn't fit into the plans with this rebuilding team. He'll be better off on an established team looking for some quick-fix depth at receiver than with the Niners, who must start developing the young receivers who will lead them forward in the present and future.

C Brock Gutierrez: Taking the 2004 season into perspective, Gutierrez was an insurance policy that paid off considerably for the 49ers after Jeremy Newberry, their two-time All-Pro center, was lost for the season after one game with knee and back injuries. It might be wise for the Niners to take out that policy again, but the team may decide to go younger and cheaper this year for Newberry's backup.

S Ronnie Heard: He did not respond with a respectable season after being handed the starting job at free safety. Heard failed to become a much-needed playmaker in the secondary and the Niners will be looking for an upgrade at the position in 2005. It's unlikely he will be offered a deal to return for his sixth season with the team.

OT Jerome Davis: It's difficult to envision a place on the team for this seldom-used backup, who appeared in only two games last year after missing the first four due to suspension.

RB Terry Jackson: Jackson will be a tough call for the Niners, because he is a versatile player who has many uses and has established himself as one of the team's top veterans. But Jackson's veteran's price tag could inhibit his return, particularly if the Niners feel they need to put money into acquiring another running back – or decide to do so through the draft.

K Todd Peterson: Established himself last year as the most reliable kicker the 49ers have had in at least the past seven seasons. Peterson is rated by many as the No. 3 UFA kicker available this year and he should be retained because it will be difficult for the team to find a better kicker this year in free agency or the draft. But the Niners still might consider exploring other options at the position.

CB Jimmy Williams: He had a disappointing 2004 season after being given opportunity after opportunity to make an impact in the secondary. Williams is a versatile player who has talent and can make an impact on special teams, but he's a wildly inconsistent player whom the 49ers are unlikely to offer even a veteran minimum's salary to return.

DL Chris Cooper: Midseason addition started San Francisco's final two games and may have seen his value to the team – and chances of returning – increase with the 49ers now planning to move to a 3-4 defensive scheme, where Cooper has the size and ability to be a legitimate end.

TE Steve Bush: He would be a nice fit with this team as the No. 3 tight end and the Niners should attempt to keep this versatile player if the asking price isn't too high. Bush can provide a blocking dimension at the position not possessed by starter Eric Johnson and backup Aaron Walker, and he also can play H-back and fullback.

TOMORROW: A look at the status of the 49ers' six restricted free agents and eight exclusive rights free agents

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