The 49ers have been adding and losing — and losing some more — free agents for the last three days, and their roster is beginning to take shape.
Yes, there are still players to add, and we’ll highlight the three biggest positions of need below. But with scant salary-cap space and their first NFL Draft selection coming at the end of the third round, it’s likely that most of the major pieces already are in place.
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Here’s a position-by-position look at where things stand and where work is still needed.
On board: Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold
Departing: Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders), Josh Johnson
Lance figures to be the team’s top quarterback when OTAs begin in May, with Darnold in the backup spot, the same role Nate Sudfeld was in last spring. The situation will get more complicated in late summer when Purdy’s right elbow is fully healed, but we suspect he’ll need some ramp-up time before he can take over the No. 2 role from Darnold or the No. 1 role from Lance. Which is to say, as much as everyone likes to get hot and bothered by quarterback controversies, the subject probably will be moot until September.
What about a fourth quarterback? That’s possible. Purdy didn’t get much work last spring, as Lance and Sudfeld gobbled up the bulk of the practice snaps. But he did see action in training camp and the preseason. A rookie, someone signed late in the draft or after the draft, could fill that role in the offseason and then start the season on the practice squad. The active roster? When everyone is healthy, the 49ers could carry three quarterbacks for the first time in years.
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On board: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk (fullback)
Departing: Tevin Coleman
Incoming: Undrafted rookie
This position seems as stable as it’s been in years following McCaffrey’s acquisition and Mason’s encouraging rookie season. There would be a collective freakout by the fan base if the 49ers spent a third-round pick on a running back for the third straight season, and justifiably so. With Bobby Turner and Anthony Lynn coaching — and scouting — the position, the team’s best strategy might be to bring in runners after the draft, as it did with Mason, Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Matt Breida in previous years. All of them are still in the league. Coleman also could be available during the season if there are injury issues.
On board: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (tendered), Ray-Ray McCloud III, Danny Gray, Tay Martin, Dazz Newsome
Departing: Willie Snead IV
Incoming: Rookies, budget veterans
The 49ers kept only five receivers on the 53-man roster for most of the 2022 season, and those same five, if healthy, could be the only active roster members this season as well. The draft is deep at wide receiver, and the team already seems to be poking around for future replacements for McCloud, who serves as the team’s returner and is only signed through 2023. The 49ers usually carry 11 or 12 receivers on their 90-man offseason roster. As it stands now, they have seven. Look for them to draft at least one wideout and add more afterward.
On board: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner
Departing: Tyler Kroft, Ross Dwelley, Jordan Matthews
Incoming: Rookie, budget free agent
The 49ers kept four tight ends on the active roster last season, although they were rarely in uniform at the same time. Look for the 49ers to add one tight end in what is being hailed as the best draft at the position in a while. Some combination of Kroft, Dwelley or Matthews also could be back in the mix this offseason on minimum-salary deals. Kroft spent most of last season as the team’s No. 2 tight end.
On board: Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Nick Zakelj, Jason Poe, Keith Ismael, Leroy Watson, Alfredo Gutierrez
Departing: Mike McGlinchey (Broncos), Daniel Brunskill (Titans)
Incoming: Rookie or free agent
The 49ers seem OK on the interior of the line. Brendel, Zakelj and Ismael — who spent nearly all of last season on the practice squad — are the centers, with Banks, Burford, Poe, Zakelj and Ismael at guard. The tackle spot, however, is thin and the team could stand to bring in a veteran. Or perhaps the 49ers pool together some of their 11 draft picks and grab a quality tackle on Day 2 of the draft. Someone to keep an eye on this offseason is Watson, a tight-end-to-tackle convert who took positive strides in that transition last season.
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On board: Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kalia Davis, Alex Barrett
Departing: Samson Ebukam (Colts), Charles Omenihu (Chiefs), Hassan Ridgeway (Texans), Kerry Hyder Jr., Jordan Willis, Kemoko Turay, Maurice Hurst, T.Y. McGill, Michael Dwumfour
Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers did a nice job bulking up their defensive line with Hargrave and Ferrell, but they are still low on numbers. The team likes to have eight defensive linemen active on game days, 10 on the 53-man roster and 14 or 15 on the offseason roster. Willis and Turay might be possibilities to return, and the team has had recent discussions about Willis, who also is a staple on special teams. The draft, meanwhile, is deep at defensive line, and it would be a mild surprise if the 49ers didn’t make a selection at that position.
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On board: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson
Departing: Azeez Al-Shaair (Titans), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers expected to lose Al-Shaair, their longtime No. 3 linebacker, who is earmarked for an every-down role in Tennessee. They did not tender Flannigan-Fowles, who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent. He now becomes an unrestricted free agent and could come back on a league-minimum deal. With Al-Shaair gone, Burks is the de facto No. 3 linebacker. McCrary-Ball, however, ought to be fun to watch this offseason. An undrafted rookie last year, he’s fast and aggressive and has a good shot at making the active roster.
On board: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack III, Ambry Thomas, Qwuantrezz Knight, AJ Parker
Departing: Jimmie Ward (Texans), Emmanuel Moseley (Lions), Jason Verrett, Janoris Jenkins
Incoming: Mid-tier free agent, rookie
The position was crying out for another experienced veteran after the 49ers lost Jimmie Ward and Moseley. So they brought in Oliver, who has appeared in 62 games for the Falcons over the last five seasons and is earmarked to take over Jimmie Ward’s role as nickel cornerback. The move ought to allow Lenoir to remain on the outside, where he made strides late in the season. We included Knight at cornerback because he played it — especially nickel cornerback — as a rookie last offseason and stuck around on the practice squad throughout the year. He also is an option at safety.
On board: Tashaun Gipson Sr., Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, Tayler Hawkins
Departing: Tarvarius Moore, Dontae Johnson
Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie
The first three spots are set with Gipson, Hufanga and Odum. The fourth? There’s been no buzz about Moore in free agency yet, and because of that, there’s a slight possibility he’ll return on a one-year deal. Hawkins and Knight certainly are candidates to fill that fourth spot, and Knight has the potential to be a special teams stalwart as Moore has been.
On board: P Mitch Wishnowsky, LS Taybor Pepper, PR McCloud
Departing: K Gould
Incoming: High-end veteran, budget veteran, rookie
The 49ers and Gould obviously don’t agree on compensation — hence the report earlier this month that Gould will be playing “elsewhere” this season. Still, Gould remains on the market, and as long as he does he’s a possibility to return. If he signs with, say, the Cowboys, the 49ers could go with a less expensive veteran, someone like Eddy Piñeiro, Matt Prater or whoever loses the Chargers’ kicker competition between Cameron Dicker and Dustin Hopkins. The 49ers also could draft a kicker. Michigan’s Jake Moody is considered the top prospect, though a potential issue with him is that the Lions also are shopping for kickers and might be drawn to the guy who kicked just down the road in Ann Arbor.
(Top photo of Robbie Gould and Clelin Ferrell: Chris Unger / Getty Images)