But the 49ers will also likely bargain shop for a few pieces. Among the position they may look at is receiver. Last week, we looked at the possibility of the team considering Minnesota receiver Jerome Simpson. Another name to consider may be Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dexter McCluster.
McCluster, who likely will not be too expensive, can help as a returner as well as a receiver. The Chiefs had high hopes for McCluster, who they took in the second round in 2010, but he never made a huge impact for them on offense. He is, however, versatile and can play running back as well.
The 49ers already have their own second-round player who has yet to make an impact. Oregon running back LaMichael James, who was taken in 2012, is a similar player who hasn't been able to make his mark. If would be interesting to see what the team would do with James, who finished the season as the return man, if the team does pursue McCluster.
There certainly could be a scenario where both were kept. I don't think McCluster would be a priority, but I do think he could be somewhere on the team's wish list.
The 49ers have not confirmed the move.
The release will save the team more than $6 million against the salary cap. The 49ers should have more than $16 million in cap room when free agency starts Tuesday.
Rogers, 32, was the team's nickel cornerback last season and has been a mainstay since 2011. However, his age and cap number made the cut likely. He refused a pay cut last season and it paid off for him. Now, the 49ers have other needs.
If Brown leaves, the 49ers will be thin at cornerback. Chris Culliver, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, would likely compete for a starting job. The 49ers are expected to use an early draft pick on a cornerback regardless of if Brown re-signs.
A league source said the 49ers have contacted Miami free agent Nolan Carroll. He could be an inexpensive veteran option if Brown joins Rogers on the way out of San Francisco.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated thinks he would fit quite nicely. King pegs the 49ers as a “dark horse” candidate to land Vick, who will not be returning to Philadelphia. King writes that if Vick doesn’t get any firm starting job bites, he could be interested in playing for a contender like the 49ers as a backup.
It’s a pretty interesting connection. Vick is a mobile quarterback, like Kaepernick. It is ideal when the backup quarterback has a similar style to the starter. That helps the entire offense transition if the backup has to play. Vick would be a better scheme fit than 2013 backup Colt McCoy, who is also a free agent.
Having a reliable player like Vick backing up Kaepernick could ease the team’s concerns about Kaepernick running in the regular season. It was clear in the playoffs that the 49ers are much more comfortable with Kaepernick running when all the chips are on the table. Knowing there is a quality backup may open up the playbook a bit throughout the season.
I’m sure the 49ers will consider taking a backup quarterback in the May draft, but if the price and timing is right, Vick could be a short-term answer.
Below is Barnwell’s plan and my thoughts on it:
Estimated Cap Space: $10,021,111
Likely Cuts: CB Carlos Rogers
Who They Should Keep: CB Tarell Brown, K Phil Dawson
Did you know the largest cap hit on the 2014 San Francisco 49ers belongs to, of all people, Rogers? The 49ers would clear $5 million off their cap by releasing Rogers, a move likely to occur despite San Francisco’s relative lack of depth in the secondary. Signing the younger, more talented Rodgers-Cromartie makes more sense, with Samuel filling in as depth and Delmas replacing the departing Donte Whitner. The Niners are sufficiently deep elsewhere to stay out of free agency, although they will certainly sneak in after a couple of weeks if they see a bargain lurking unsigned.
My take: What sticks out to me is the Rodgers-Cromartie thought. If the 49ers can get him, they should jump at it. He would be an upgrade and a fine fit for the defense. But I think he could get a big deal somewhere. I think Whitner is a better player than Delmas, and the 49ers should concentrate on keeping him. But if Whitner’s market is too high, then Delmas could be a solid replacement.
2. Karlos Dansby, Arizona LB: He is 32, and that could scare teams, but he can still dominate.
3. Donte Whitner, San Francisco S: The 49ers could have some big competition, but Whitner is a strong defender they want back.
4. Brandon Browner, Seattle, CB: Even though he is facing a four-game suspension, Browner should get attention. Great talent and size. he may be worth the risk.
5. Golden Tate, Seattle WR: Tate might not be a numbers monster, but he has big potential.
6. Rodger Saffold, St. Louis OG: The Rams' biggest free-agent priority has proved capable of being a Pro Bowl-caliber guard when given the chance.
7. Clinton McDonald, Seattle DT: A solid plugger on a great defense. He will get interest.
8. Tarell Brown, San Francisco CB: Solid performer who could get looks as a No. 2 cornerback.
9. Walter Thurmond, Seattle CB: He isn’t as known as one of the Seahawks’ top cornerbacks, but he played big. He could be looking at nice payday.
10. Andre Roberts, Arizona WR: He quietly had a nice season in 2013, with 43 catches. He could attract solid interest.
11. Breno Giacomini, Seattle OG: A solid offensive lineman whom the Seahawks want back.
12. Shelley Smith, St. Louis OG: Started just two games in 2013 but flashed starter potential when given the chance.
13. Steven Hauschka, Seattle K: A standout kicker whom the Seahawks want back.
14. Phil Dawson, San Francisco K: The 49ers badly want this guy to return. He saved many games last season.
15. Eric Winston, Arizona OT: He’s not what he used but is still solid. The Cardinals want him back.
The San Francisco 49ers' main priorities are trying to get deals done with safety Donte Whitner, who the New York Jets reportedly are interested in, cornerback Tarell Brown and kicker Phil Dawson. While the team would like to re-sign them, it is very possible all will test the open market starting Tuesday afternoon. Last week the team signed their top free-agent priority, receiver Anquan Boldin. His salary-cap number for 2014 will be $3.7 million.
The 49ers should have between $9-10 million in cap room. They could get more cap room by cutting cornerback Carlos Rogers. They want Rogers back at a reduced salary from the $6 million he is due. If he doesn't accept a pay cut, he will likely be released.
The 49ers reportedly put the low restricted free-agency tender on backup defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs. The team is not expected to tender cornerback Perrish Cox, which would make him an unrestricted free agent, but they could still return.
There has been discussion about a contract extension between the team and fullback Bruce Miller, who will be a free agent next year. Talks are not imminent, but a deal could perhaps get done later this offseason.
Last year, NFL teams rolled more than $177 million of cap money to 2014 from their 2013 cap anticipating only a $3.3 million increase.
But with an increase of $10 million that pushed the cap to $133 million, teams face an interesting dilemma. They have to decide how much to save for future years with revenues getting a big spike because of increased television revenue. Don't be surprised if teams hold back some spending this year to save money for key re-signings for the future.
What general managers and capologists face is trying to retain the stars from loaded draft classes in 2010 and 2011.
The 2010 draft was the last one under the old collective bargaining agreement that helped top first-round choices receive big contracts. Sam Bradford signed a six-year, $78 million deal. Ndamukong Suh got $63.5 million over five years. Gerald McCoy signed for five years and $63 million. Trent Williams made $10 million a year.
If that trend continues, Brown should benefit when free agency starts Tuesday. While the cornerback position is filled with some strong players, ESPN analyst Bill Polian ranks Brown at the top of the available players at the position.
If just one NFL team agrees with Polian, the 49ers will have difficulty keeping him. The 49ers want Brown back, but they will likely not be willing to give him a huge deal with bigger contracts on the horizon for the team. If Brown signs elsewhere, the team will likely have Chris Culliver, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, compete for a starting job. The 49ers would also likely have to add an inexpensive veteran and use an early draft pick on a cornerback.
Jackie from Euclid, Ohio, wants to know: Who is the best receiver the San Francisco 49ers could get in the draft?
Bill Williamson: I think they can get up to the Nos. 10-12 range in the first round. That could put them in position to draft Mike Evans from Texas A&M. However, this is a deep class and the 49ers, who have the 30th pick in the first round, may find it best to stay in the back end of the round and see who falls to them. The top possibilities there include LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and Fresno State's Davante Adams.
Walter from LA wants to know: If I think Bay Area native Jared Allen could join the 49ers in free agency.
BW: I think it'd make sense if the 49ers had a big need there. He'd fit in with the 49ers and I'm sure he'd like to come home. But the 49ers just don't have a big need for a pass-rusher. The only way I could see this union happening is if Allen came very cheaply. I don't expect to happen.
Charlie W. from Visalia, Ca. wants to know: If I think the 49ers' reported turmoil affects quarterback Colin Kaepernick's desire to sign a long-term contract.
BW: Good question. The answer is, ultimately, no. Players want to be paid fair market value. Other distractions usually don't play a big role. With that said, I'm sure Kaepernick would like there to be harmony among the men who are in charge of coaching him and building the team around him. But I don't expect it to be a big issue.
Clearly the team has no problem considering aging defensive backs. That leads me to wonder if, under the right circumstances, if the 49ers will have interest in Champ Bailey.
The future Hall of Fame cornerback was released by the Denver Broncos this week. Bailey, who will turn 36 in June, has said he still wants to play. Even though Bailey is fading, he can still help a team. His play in 2013 was affected by an injury and he performed well in the playoffs. Bailey has also said he wouldn't close the door on playing safety.
I could see the 49ers looking for a veteran defensive back to help as a rotational player on the field. Bailey is a pro’s pro and he would fit beautifully in an already strong San Francisco locker room.
I think Bailey would jump at a chance to play for the 49ers. He will surely want to stay on a contending team. He lives in Orange County, California in the offseason and would likely be open to playing in the state.
I’m not sure this is a situation the 49ers would jump on right away. They may want to see what happens with cornerback Tarell Brown and safety Donte Whitner in free agency before making any other moves with the secondary. But if the 49ers are open to signing an aging star again, there are reasons to think Bailey could fit.
In other 49ers notes:
The 49ers are reportedly putting the low restricted free agency tender on backup defensive lineman DeMarcus Dobbs. That would likely keep him on the team in 2014. He is a solid rotational player.
The league could announce this month who plays the Seattle Seahawks in the season kickoff game at Seattle on Sept. 4. Possible contenders include the 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.
Receiver Anquan Boldin's salary cap number this season, as part of his new deal, is $3.7 million.
Key free agents: S Donte Whitner, CB Tarell Brown, K Phil Dawson
Where they stand: The 49ers are already off to a productive start to free agency. They re-signed receiver Anquan Boldin to a team-friendly two-year, $12 million extension earlier this week. Boldin was the team's top free-agency priority. No matter what happens once free agency starts Tuesday, the 49ers already accomplished Task 1. But that doesn't mean their work is over. The 49ers love their roster and they want to keep their talent. Whitner, Brown and Dawson are all players the 49ers want back.
What to expect: The 49ers have been in contact with all of their top priorities. But it won't be a surprise if they have to wait out Whitner, Brown and Dawson. All three may want to test the market. I wouldn't be surprised if both Brown and Whitner get heavy interest, but the 49ers may be willing to do what it takes to keep both, within reason. Dawson may be easier to get done. If Whitner and/or Brown leave, the 49ers may have to dip into the outside free-agent market. I think that's the only way the 49ers become big players in the outside market. They may sign a few pieces here and there, but for the most part the 49ers like their roster and want to keep it in place as much as possible.
Coach Jim Harbaugh's situation in San Francisco has been one of the most talked-about stories in the league in recent weeks.
If a resolution on his contract isn't reached, it will likely hover over the franchise all season and would be a major story next January, when Harbaugh could leave the team, although Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated this week he is happy with all aspects of his job and doesn’t see any way he will leave the team before the end of his contract. Still, getting the contract done would ease a lot of issues.
We all know the backdrop: Harbaugh has led the 49ers to the NFC title game in all three of his seasons as coach. He got them to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. He is entering the fourth year of a five-year contract that pays him $5 million per year. Harbaugh and the 49ers have been in discussion about a new deal for about a year, but are not close to an extension. Team owner Jed York recently told the Sacramento Bee he thinks contract talks will resume after the NFL draft in early May.
Things got interesting when the Cleveland Browns pursued a trade for Harbaugh. The 49ers were not interested, but that could change next year.
There have been rampant reports that Harbaugh has had trouble with some in the 49ers' front office, including general manager Trent Baalke. York, Harbaugh and Baalke have long downplayed the friction, indicating that they can coexist.
However, there is enough smoke here to think this situation go could south if a contract isn't agreed upon this year. Let's look at some issues that may be part of this story as it further develops:
The history: While it would be stunning to see the 49ers-Harbaugh marriage disintegrate after such a stellar start, similar breakups have happened before.
If Harbaugh leaves the 49ers, it wouldn't be the first time a coach and team split despite success.
The highest-paid coaches: Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated he is not unhappy with his pay, but the man is underpaid considering his massive NFL success. Nine of the 32 NFL coaches in 2013 made at least $7 million. Only five of them had won a Super Bowl.
I'd think it has to bother Harbaugh that Chip Kelly earned $6.5 million in his first NFL season and NFC West rival Jeff Fisher made $7 million in St. Louis. Coaches' salaries are at a premium and, by NFL standards, Harbaugh is underpaid.
The best coaches without power: He is hypercompetitive and likes to be in control. So, Harbaugh probably isn't always thrilled to defer personnel decisions to Baalke. But I don't sense Harbaugh wanting to be the general manager and making every decision as he said. He is a coach.
I don't see this as a deal-breaker.
There are plenty of great NFL coaches who don't have total power, including Harbaugh's brother, John, in Baltimore. There's also Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and Pete Carroll in Seattle. So, a lack of total power in the NFL really isn't a big deal anymore for coaches.
But right now, the list of teams that may be making a change next year and may make sense for Harbaugh isn't very long.
Miami and Dallas would be among the biggest suitors. Miami tried to hire Harbaugh before he went to San Francisco. The team has deep pockets, a need for good public relations, and the Dolphins have a good young quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Dallas has big bucks and Tony Romo. Harbaugh could like both places.
Other possibilities could include both New York teams and Atlanta (coaching Matt Ryan would surely be intriguing). A potential long shot could be Oakland. Harbaugh was an assistant in Oakland and he could stay in the Bay Area. But the Raiders have to find a quarterback and ownership would have to be willing to shell out financially to make it work. Plus, the 49ers would need to get a haul from the Raiders to trade him to their Bay Area rival.
If I had to give odds on the early favorite, I'd look toward Miami.
Who could replace Harbaugh? It's only logical to think that San Francisco ownership, in the back of its mind, is thinking post-Harbaugh just in case.
The chance of getting draft picks for a coach the 49ers can't come to an agreement with could interest the team next offseason. Also, the idea of front-office peace could be at the forefront as well, especially if things go haywire the rest of this year.
The first place the 49ers would likely look to replace Harbaugh is on the current staff. Because the team has been so successful, I could see the 49ers having interest in staying close to home. Offensive and defensive coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, respectively, would likely be on the 49ers' list. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is a favorite of the front office. He was a candidate when Harbaugh was hired and his players love him.
Here's another name the 49ers could look at -- David Shaw. He replaced Harbaugh at Stanford. I'm sure he wouldn't be afraid to do it again.
Shaw has been steadfast in his desire to stay at Stanford. But if he were ever to leave for the NFL, this would likely be an appealing situation. He and his family could stay in their house and he'd go to a near perfect NFL situation with a franchise quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.
There is plenty to unfold in this situation in the next several months. Harbaugh and the 49ers could end it all by coming to a contract extension. But as we have realized early this offseason, it's not that simple.
TCU boasts cornerbacks Jason Verrett, who could be a target of the 49ers at the end of the first round. He is undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, but he is expected to be ready for training camp.
In other 49ers notes:
- The 49ers' website offered a great quote from coach Jim Harbaugh about his half-court swish while he was visiting Kansas' basketball practice Wednesday. Harbaugh told this site this: "I'm glad you heard about it." It was hard not to notice, Coach. It's been all over "SportsCenter."
- A Twitter study conducted by Emory University showed the 49ers' fan base would be among the most receptive if the team drafted Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam. He is the poised to be the first openly gay NFL player.
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver is continuing his outreach to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community more than a year after his anti-gay remarks leading up to the Super Bowl.
The San Francisco Bay Times announced Thursday that Culliver conducted his first interview with an LGBT media outlet, sharing how he changed his thinking. Culliver, who missed the 2013 season because of a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during training camp, underwent sensitivity training and began doing other outreach work.
Culliver has worked with "The Trevor Project," an organization that provides crisis and suicide intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
"I truly appreciate the staff at the Trevor Project for allowing me to grow and educating me on the issues affecting the LGBTQ community," Culliver said Thursday in a statement to The Associated Press. "I have learned so much and made some really great friends. I will continue my commitment to the organization and to their youths and stand firm with hope that one day that all individuals regardless of sex, race, or creed will be treated with dignity and respect from all."
During Super Bowl media day in 2013 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Culliver responded to questions from comedian Artie Lange by saying he wouldn't welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn't have any homosexual players and, if they did, those players should leave. He later apologized, facing a large group of Super Bowl media members for nearly an hour.
He has Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III tabbed for the 49ers. Nix is a high quality player and he would be good value at No. 30, where the 49ers pick. But the 49ers are deep on the defensive line.
McShay has Nix as the pick because his mock has a late first-round run on receivers and cornerbacks. Those are the 49ers’ biggest needs.
Still, the 49ers, who are poised to have 13 draft picks, have the capability to trade up in the first round. If they think that's what it would take to get Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks or Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin, the 49ers would.
Also, as this board falls, I'd think the 49ers would be interested in Fresno State receiver Davante Adams or Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner with the No. 30 pick.