Jim Tomsula on Monday noted that while the 49ers lost a big chunk of their leadership since last season – via free agency, retirement and other means – there is a group of young players he thinks will, some day, rise into those roles.
The subtext, of course, is that while the 49ers’ situation looks bleak now, the future seems bright, according to the coach. Tomsula mentioned Jimmie Ward, Blake Bell, Jaquiski Tartt, Eli Harold and Quinton Dial as part of a young group that, when combined with still-young veterans like Ian Williams and NaVorro Bowman, makes for a potentially strong locker room.
Williams is an interesting name when discussing the future because he’s unsigned beyond this season. The 49ers typically extend one or two players during the season but have yet to do so in 2015.Does Tomsula know something about a pending deal for the 26-year-old Williams?
“I’m not going to get into ... I don’t know where that is on the business side,” he said. “I’m a big Ian guy, you know that.”
Here are the 49ers heading toward unrestricted free agency in March:
WR Anquan Boldin, 35 – Boldin is on pace to finish with his lowest yardage total since 2004 and he’ll turn 36 next season. Still, he’s also on pace to lead the 49ers in receiving yards for the third consecutive season. After Torrey Smith, there is no one currently on the roster who has shown he can be a No. 1 option – or No. 2. The 49ers signed Boldin to a two-year extension in March 2014.
G Alex Boone, 28 – Boone is still on the lucrative side of age 30 and he’s proven he can play multiple positions on the offensive line. He said he’s open to returning to the 49ers when he recovers from a torn MCL in his right knee, but the team’s history with interior linemen – from David Baas to Mike Iupati – is that they won’t open their wallet very wide in free agency. Besides, Boone already has tried to negotiate a new deal and gotten nowhere. There’s a good chance he’ll find a better offer elsewhere.
RB Reggie Bush, 30 – It’s difficult to see the 49ers re-signing Bush after they spent $2.4 million on him and he accounted for 47 offensive yards before landing on injured reserve. The team has received far more bang for its buck from running back Shaun Draughn.
TE Garrett Celek, 27 – This is the second consecutive year Celek has ended the season on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Still, he made big gains as a pass catcher this season and was the team’s best – easily its most consistent – tight end this season when he was healthy. He’s someone the team will want to re-sign but at a reasonable price.
K Phil Dawson, 40 – Dawson turns 41 next month, but this year hardly has been exhausting for him. The 49ers score less than any other team and their kickoff duties are handled by rookie punter Bradley Pinion. Dawson’s biggest downside is his price tag. The 49ers signed him in 2013 and 2014 because they figured he’d be attempting pressure-cooker field goals and they needed someone of his caliber. Which is to say, Dawson may be more valuable to a team that expects to be kicking field goals during the 2016 playoffs.
NT Ian Williams, 26 – He’s having a good season, including forced fumbles in the last two games, and he was voted one of nine team captains by teammates before the start of the season. He’s been exactly the type of player the 49ers have extended in the past. But the closer Williams gets to hitting the open market – the salary cap is expected to take a big jump in 2016 – the dimmer the 49ers’ chances of re-signing him.
Restricted free agents – ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong; DL Tony Jerod-Eddie; I:B Michael Wilhoite
Exclusive rights free agents – G Jordan Devey; RB Kendall Gaskins