What will 49ers do with their own: RFAs & ERFAs

With money to spend in free agency this year – and an estimated $18 million of room under the NFL's projected 2005 salary cap of $85.5 million – the 49ers are preparing to do some significant shopping on the open market after the league's free-agency period begins in 10 days. But first, the Niners must make decisions regarding the 25 players on their roster who are scheduled for some form of free agency. Today, SFI looks at the status of the team's restricted FAs and exclusive rights FAs.

Here's a brief look at where these 14 players – six restricted free agents and eight exclusive rights free agents – stand with the team before the beginning of the free agency period.

These restricted free agents are free to negotiate and sign with any NFL team, but are restricted under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In order to receive right of first refusal and/or draft choice compensation, the 49ers must tender these players a qualifying offer on or before March 1:

OT-OG Kyle Kosier: Beyond unrestricted free agent Julian Peterson, Kosier might be the 49ers' top priority in free agency among players who already are on the roster. Even if the Niners don't view him as a starter of the future at either guard or tackle, they want to keep him around for the versatility and depth he provides at both positions. That's not to say Kosier isn't good enough to start, because he is, as he has displayed over the past two years. The Niners don't want to lose Kosier and almost certainly will tender him an offer.

OG Eric Heitmann: With so much uncertainty on an offensive line that struggled throughout the 2004 season, the 49ers don't want to lose Heitmann either, but he doesn't figure to be as much of a priority as Kosier. Even if the 49ers want an upgrade over this three-year starter, he should be brought back to battle for his job and/or provide quality depth along the line and has a good chance of being tendered.

LB Brandon Moore: With the switch to a 3-4 base defense, the 49ers will have more need for versatile, active linebackers who can provide depth and perform multiple tasks. Moore fits into all those categories. If the Niners don't tender him because of a numbers situations, they still might try to re-sign him if he doesn't get a better offer elsewhere.

LB Saleem Rasheed: The switch to the 3-4 also increases Rasheed's value to the 49ers, and if the team deems he can have a role in those plans, he probably will be tendered because of the upside and potential he still displays after three years in the league.

DT Daleroy Stewart: The 49ers have no reason to tender this veteran, since there are a lot of players like him to be found without tying themselves to a contract offer for a marginal talent whose skills might not fit into the new defensive scheme.

OL Rob Murphy: He didn't contribute much last season as a reserve on a weak offensive line and is highly unlikely to be tendered an offer as the team looks for better and fresher talent.

These exclusive rights free agents may negotiate or sign contracts only with the 49ers, as long as San Francisco tenders the player at least a one-year contract at or above the minimum salary applicable to that player. If the 49ers do not make or withdraw the required tender by March 1, these players are free to negotiate and sign a contract with any NFL team:

DB Dwaine Carpenter: Is this athletic player better suited for cornerback or safety? Perhaps the new coaching regime can decide. The old regime couldn't last year while shifting Carpenter back and forth between positions, which did absolutely nothing for his development. Carpenter has potential if he ever learns technique, so the Niners may be leaning toward tendering him an offer to give him another shot.

FB Jasen Isom: Has enough potential at fullback and as a special teams player to be asked back for another look, but the Niners still are deciding what they will do in their offensive backfield and may not tie themselves to an offer for a player who can be easily replaced.

RB Maurice Hicks: Hicks' status also is tied to the team's uncertain plans at running back. But he certainly did enough in 2004 to be tendered an offer. His late-season fade after an eye-opening start may hurt his chances, however, and the team may look at other options at RB despite Hicks' fine NFL debut.

DL Tony Brown: Young talent is versatile and proved that he could perform at the NFL level last year. With his size and skills, this tweener could have a future in the new defensive scheme at end. Again, like several of the team's ERFAs, the Niners must decide if he is worth an offer, or if they can do better looking elsewhere.

CB Joselio Hanson: Made some big plays in coverage for the 49ers last year, but also was exposed and beaten by bigger opponents as his playing time increased. This diminutive youngster might not fit the profile of what the new coaching regime is looking for in its cornerbacks.

CB Rayshun Reed: Niners are looking to upgrade their depth at cornerback, and Reed might be the best prospect of the team's three ERFAs at the position. He made some plays when given an opportunity last year, but the Niners must decide how – and if – he fits into their plans.

CB Mike Adams: Adams also made some plays and displayed a nose for the football after he was given an opportunity when several cornerbacks went down ahead of him on the depth chart. His future with the team appears connected to that of Hanson and Reed. The Niners are unlikely to tender all three – and perhaps any of the three.

LB Ray Wells: The team will consider all linebackers currently on the roster, but this guy is unlikely to be offered a tender.


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