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2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs For The San Francisco 49ers

Despite a roster that is loaded from top to bottom, the 49ers just cannot seem to win the final game of the season. There are few teams as talented as San Francisco's. In years past, it was easy to point at the quarterback position as the reason why, but Brock Purdy has solidified the position in a way that Jimmy Garoppolo never did. There are no excuses anymore, not for a team that has so many Pro Bowlers and All-Pros. They've had one of the best five-year stretches in the NFL, but unfortunately, they've all ended in heartbreak.

Previous divisional editions breaking down each team's 2023 season, their offseason assets, and their top-three positional needs going into the 2024 NFL season can be found here:

The core of their roster is already in place. They have elite players at almost every single position. This offseason is all about filling in the gaps, which they have a few of. Their salary cap is ballooning, and all of that elite talent isn't cheap. San Francisco is running out of time with this elite core to finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy. If you want to take advantage of all of our great premium tools, please use promo code "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount. 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


Season Review and Offseason Assets

The 49ers, once again, had an amazing season. Skipping over the 2020 season, since 2019, the 49ers have a 48-19 record. In those four seasons, they have an 8-4 postseason record. They’ve been to two Super Bowls and two NFC Championship Games. They have zero Super Bowl wins. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

They’ve lost to Patrick Mahomes twice in Super Bowls and lost one NFC Championship when they were down to their third-string quarterback. Still, there have been few teams who have experienced as much heartbreak over the past five years as the 49ers.

The 49ers offense finished third in points scored and second in yards gained. It was one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. Christian McCaffrey was a first-team All-Pro and finished third in the MVP voting. Brock Purdy made the Pro Bowl and finished fifth in MVP voting. If the NFL had a third-team All-Pro team, he likely would have been on it. Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, and Trent Williams also received first-team All-Pro nods.

Their defense finished third in points allowed and eighth in yards given up. Charvarius Ward, Nick Bosa, and Javon Hargrave all were elected to the Pro Bowl. Fred Warner was a first-team All-Pro. Following the Super Bowl loss, Kyle Shanahan fired defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. As of yet, that position has not been filled. Another big obstacle arose from that Super Bowl game, the torn Achilles injury for Dre Greenlaw. This team was absolutely loaded on both sides of the football.

San Francisco enters the 2024 offseason with just under $1 million in cap space. Brandon Aiyuk is on his fifth-year option year and wants a contract extension. The team will also need to decide on Chase Young, whom they traded for midway through the season from the Commanders.

The 49ers have several very high-priced players on the books for 2024. Trent Williams has a cap hit of $31.5 million, Deebo Samuel is at $28.6 million, Arik Armstead is at $28.3 million, Warner is at $24.4 million, Kittle is at $21.9 million, Ward is at $18.4 million, Hargrave is at $15.4 million, Bosa is at $14.6 million, CMC is at $14.1 million, and Aiyuk is at $14.1 million.

If they were to cut any of them, CMC is the only one that comes with a cap savings of more than $5 million, which means they're all locked in for 2024. They’ll likely restructure several of those contracts to create more cap space. Trading Aiyuk, which is a possibility, would save the team his full $14.1 million cap hit.

The 49ers own the No. 31 (first-rounder), No. 63 (second-rounder), No. 94 (third-rounder), No. 98 (third-rounder), No. 132 (fourth-rounder), No. 176 (fifth-rounder), No. 209 (sixth-rounder), No. 214 (sixth-rounder), No. 215 (sixth-rounder), and No. 249 (seventh-rounder) overall picks in this year’s NFL Draft.


Biggest Needs

1. Right Side of the Offensive Line

Colton McKivitz (2020 fifth-rounder) played 1,040 snaps at right tackle. Jake Brendel (2016 UDFA) logged 1,024 snaps at center. Spencer Burford (2022 fourth-rounder) played 846 snaps at right guard. Free agent Jon Feliciano (32 years old) played 478 snaps at guard and center. McKivitz, Brendel, and Burford struggled immensely. McKivitz allowed nine sacks, 34 hurries, and 47 tackles. All three stats were in the top 10 of most allowed among tackles this season. He was a turntable at right tackle and needs to be upgraded.

Burford allowed five sacks and Brendel allowed two. However, they both gave up a decent number of hurries, 26 and 24, respectively. Burford allowed 33 pressures and Brendel allowed 29. Burford’s numbers were all in the top 15 of most allowed among guards and centers. Brendel was slightly better, but far from good. Burford was also called for nine penalties, which was the fourth-highest among guards and centers. Burford’s pass-blocking PFF grade was 28.3. Brendel’s was 42.3 and McKivitz’s was 56.4. All three of these players could and should be upgraded.

2. Defensive Line

Armstead is in the final year of his contract. Chase Young, Randy Gregory, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Clelin Ferrell, and Sebastian Joseph-Day are all free agents. All of them. Together, they logged 1,989 snaps. They still have Bosa, Armstead, Hargrave, and 2022 second-round pick Drake Jackson under contract, but their entire defensive line rotation and depth are essentially gone. They’re left with just Kalia Davis (2022 sixth-rounder) and Robert Beal Jr. (2023 fifth-rounder). Those six free agents combined for 13.5 sacks, 45 pressures, 101 tackles, and 18 tackles for a loss.

Young was the only player used in a starter’s role, but that is a ton of depth the 49ers will need to replace. It isn’t just depth either, that stable of rotational players was incredibly productive for the snaps they played. To put it into perspective how much 1,989 snaps are, Bosa, Hargrave, and Armstead played 1,962. With Armstead entering his final contract season, Hargrave at 31 years old, and all those pending free agents, the 49ers need to add talent and reinforcements to their defensive line. It is a sneaky big-time need.

3. Linebacker

There’s an argument for cornerback here. Ward is a stud, but opposite starter Deommodore Lenoir, who logged 981 snaps on defense, struggled a bit. He was called for seven penalties. He was targeted 99 times and surrendered 69 receptions for 804 yards and one touchdown. His three interceptions helped keep his quarterback rating when targeted down at 84.7. Backup cornerback Isaiah Oliver allowed a 104.2 quarterback rating and Ambry Thomas allowed a 96.4 quarterback rating.

Receiver is also a sneaky need. Samuel is 28 years old and Aiyuk does not have a long-term contract. His name has been in the rumor mill. Third receiver Jauan Jennings is a former seventh-round pick from the 2020 draft and has averaged just 42 targets, 26 receptions, and 321 yards a season across his three years in the NFL. However, we’re going to focus on the linebacker position with the torn Achilles that occurred in the Super Bowl to Dre Greenlaw. Don't be surprised if the 49ers target cornerback help this offseason or prioritize receiver in the draft, though.

Greenlaw played 848 snaps last season and finished with 120 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for a loss, and was a menacing presence in the middle of their defense. His unfortunate injury will mean that he is likely out for the entire 2024 season. Backup linebackers Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles played 487 snaps combined. They are both free agents.

The only other linebackers on the roster are Dee Winters (2023 sixth-rounder) and Jalen Graham (2023 seventh-rounder). Warner and Greenlaw are such a huge piece of what has made the 49ers defense tick that it becomes imperative they find a new running mate for Warner this season.

Other Positions of Need: Cornerback, Wide Receiver


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