49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

November 15, 2009
Upcapped year will alter Niners free-agent future

I've been getting a lot of questions about Aubrayo Franklin, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, so I thought I'd use the 49ers' "second bye" to update their free agency situation. If you feel like discussing this or any other matter, you can extend your weekend a few hours by joining me for a chat Monday at 11 a.m. Just log onto www.sacbee.com/live.

G David Baas. Baas is one of the players who gets caught if there is no salary cap in 2010. His contract is up after this year, which normally would make him an unrestricted free agent and thus eligible to hit the open market. In an uncapped year, however, players need six accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent. Baas will have five. That makes him a restricted free agent, which would allow the 49ers to match any offer Baas receives from another team.

The question is how far the 49ers would go to bring Baas back. He was the first pick in the second round in 2005, which is just about the earliest you ever would take a guard. Yet he hasn't lived up to his draft slot. It took Baas a while to win a starting role, and he has been inconsistent since. Still, the 49ers have little depth at that position, and if they could retain Baas for a modest sum, the continuity might be worth the expenditure.

WR Arnaz Battle. Battle is a tough receiver, a good blocker and he has a lot of respect from teams around the league. With Michael Crabtree, Morgan, Jason Hill and Brandon Jones on the roster, Battle realizes that his opportunity for playing time is diminished in San Francisco. Look for him to go to the team for whom he thinks he can get the most offensive snaps.

CB Dre' Bly. Bly's plan this season was to sign a relatively small contract and hope his play makes him a commodity on the free-agent market next season. So far that hasn't happened. Bly has been the team's nickel cornerback, and as far as pecking order, you'd have to put him behind Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown and Nate Clements. Clements is the key to the 49ers' cornerback situation next season. He'll be out until mid December. If the 49ers do well without him, it might be hard to justify his massive 2010 salary. If that's the case, Bly becomes a little more valuable to the 49ers. How soon Clements returns and how well he plays upon his return will answer a lot of questions.

LB Ahmad Brooks. Brooks is in the same boat as Baas - if there's no new CBA he'll be a restricted free agent. If I had to guess, I'd say that he and Aubrayo Franklin are the priorities for the 49ers. The team sees real potential in Brooks as a pass rusher, and after beginning his career as an inside linebacker he is finally playing at his best spot, outside linebacker. The Brooks-Mike Singletary pairing also is a good one for a player who teems with talent but who has lacked motivation.

WR Isaac Bruce. Mike Singletary said Friday that Josh Morgan would be taking over Bruce's starting spot. With so many young receivers in need of playing time, and with Bruce having trouble separating from defenders, it's very difficult seeing the veteran receiver in a 49ers' uniform next season.

NT Aubrayo Franklin. No 49er has received better press this season than Franklin. And it's great timing for the unrestricted free agent. Some observers might be suspicious of a player who starts playing his best in his contract year. The truth is that Franklin has been playing well since the midpoint of last season. The nose tackle wants to test his worth on the open market, and a run stopper like him will have many, many suitors. But in an uncapped year, teams have more ability to retain players. The 49ers will have the use of both a franchise tag and a transition tag, both of which allow them to keep a player for another year as long as they pay him the average of the top players at his position. (franchise = avg. of the top 5, transition = avg. of the top 10).

CB Marcus Hudson. Hudson is well-liked in the 49ers' locker room, but he has been a special teams player and nothing more. The 49ers would welcome him back, but certainly wouldn't pay a lot. Hudson also would be a UFA in an uncapped year.

OT Tony Pashos. Like Bly, Pashos was trying to parlay a one-year deal into a big free-agent salary next year. Though he succeeded in winning a starting spot, he immediately injured his shoulder and was lost for the season. The 49ers almost certainly will try to upgrade the right tackle spot in the offseason. Pashos' desire to be a starter likely hasn't changed and he will look for a team that will give him a chance to compete for a starting role.

S Mark Roman. Roman got an interception Thursday night, but the fact that he went almost three years without one crystallizes the fact that he is not a playmaker. With good-looking youngster Reggie Smith elbowing for playing time, it's hard to see the 49ers laying out a welcome mat for Roman.

OT Barry Sims. Sims will be interesting to watch as the season progresses. At one point this offseason, he seemed like a long shot to even make the team. Now, however, he is the starter at the most critical offensive line position, and he is playing well. Sims is experienced and he can play on both the right and left side. As I said before, the 49ers almost certainly will upgrade the right tackle position in either free agency or the draft. But having Sims as a back-up could be smart move.

LB Jeff Ulbrich. It should be an easy decision for someone who suffered such a severe concussion. That Ulbrich is deliberating on whether to retire shows just how much he loves football.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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