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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 49ers free agents that should return in 2023

Rohan Chakravarthi
Feb 6, 2023 at 1:01 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers faced another disappointing ending to the season with a 31-7 loss in the NFC Championship Game to the Philadelphia Eagles, marking the second consecutive year that the 49ers have lost in that outcome.

Now, they face 25 unrestricted free agents, while only having about $16 million in cap space, meaning they'll have to make several tough decisions, including potential restructures with current players.

With that said, who are the top five free agents that the 49ers should bring back for 2023?

HM: K Robbie Gould

Robbie Gould has been consistent for the 49ers, although the level of play has dropped since his stellar years in 2017 and 2018.

However, Gould's value comes in the postseason, where the 40-year-old kicker has made all 29 of his field goal attempts, as well as 39 of his extra points.

Gould barely misses the top five with the value he's provided due to the expected cost for the veteran's services, as well as his age and positional value.

The 49ers used the franchise tag on Gould in 2019, which cost them $4.9 million, and would cost $5.4 million in 2023.

5. Tashaun Gipson

Tashaun Gipson was the biggest surprise for the 49ers in 2022, signing with the team just a few weeks before the start of the season due to a Jimmie Ward injury.

However, Gipson retained his starting spot when Ward recovered from multiple injuries, moving the longtime 49ers safety to the nickel position, while the former manned the backend.

Gipson flourished alongside second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga, forming one of the stronger safety duos in the NFL in 2022, with the veteran accumulating 61 tackles, eight passes defended, and five interceptions, while missing just two tackles all season.

The incoming safety class is a strong group and Gipson is currently 32 years old, but the 49ers should look for a reunion with the former Bears defensive back, bringing back a core piece of their defense from this past season.

Currently, Gipson is unclear on his future in the NFL, adding that his initial goal was just to make it through the season.

"I'm going to decompress and see where I'm at," Gipson said following the season. "This was only supposed to be until Jimmie Ward got healthy, but I'm so grateful. I couldn't have asked for a better situation."

However, Gipson's decision may be dependent on a certain 49ers player, teasing a potential return, should he continue playing.

"[Talanoa Hufanga] will be one of the sole reasons, honestly, for me wanting to continue playing," Gipson said. "Because that's how much love I've got for him. I wouldn't be here without him. That youthfulness, I can't tell you enough."

4. C Jake Brendel

Jake Brendel re-signed with the 49ers on a one-year deal last season after serving as the backup to Alex Mack in 2021 before taking over as the No. 1 option in 2022.

While facing competition from veteran Daniel Brunskill, Brendel earned the starting job and played his way to a Pro Bowl-alternate season in 2022.

Brendel isn't the best center: he struggles to move players at the offensive line in the running game, which hampers the inside-zone scheme for the 49ers on the ground.

But, Brendel was a top pass-protecting center in 2022, ranking third in pass-blocking efficiency, hence the Pro Bowl nod.

However, Brendel had his inconsistencies, especially earlier in the season, and is entering his age-31 season at a time where the 49ers have shown a tendency to get younger at key positions.

Still, without a clear-cut known commodity at center, the 49ers should look to retain Brendel, especially if it doesn't come at a staggering cost, allowing him to compete with players like Nick Zakelj and Jason Poe in training camp.

3. DE Charles Omenihu

Stepping into a more prominent role with the 49ers in 2022, defensive end Charles Omenihu broke out in 2022, accumulating a pass-rush win rate of over 20%, serving as San Francisco's second-best pass-rusher behind Nick Bosa with 4.5 sacks and 54 pressures on the season.

Coming to the 49ers in a 2021 midseason trade from the Houston Texans for a sixth-round pick, Omenihu was finding his footing upon his arrival, making his biggest impact in San Francisco's divisional-round game against the Dallas Cowboys, where he accumulated a team-high six pressures and 1.5 sacks.

In 2022, Omenihu had five games with over five pressures, providing San Francisco with an extra edge as a pass-rusher.

While Omenihu doesn't provide much for the 49ers as a run-defender, he's only 25 years old and is a versatile option that can line up on the outside or the inside, which has been valuable, given the injuries along the defensive line.

2. RT Mike McGlinchey

Mike McGlinchey has been a controversial figure amongst 49ers fans, who have been quick to point out his mistakes throughout his five-year career with the team, but not the steady improvements that the right tackle has made, especially in 2022.

McGlinchey, a player known for his run-blocking abilities, has developed into a top-ten right tackle in the NFL, which isn't one of the most talented position groups in the league, highlighting the importance of good players.

The Notre Dame product is prone to making poor mistakes, which have unfortunately come in key moments, but the right tackle has put together a solid body of work that will get him paid this offseason.

It appears unlikely that the 49ers will entertain a reunion with McGlinchey, given the likely cost it'll take to re-acquire him, as well as the number of interested suitors, but it will be hard to find an upgrade on the market over the incumbent starter.

1. CB Emmanuel Moseley

Emmanuel Moseley was such a valuable piece of the 49ers' defense prior to his injury in Week 5 of the regular season in 2022.

The 49ers' defense had been playing at a historic level, with the elevated secondary play being a key reason why, as Moseley combined with free agent Charvarius Ward to form one of the stronger cornerback duos in the NFL.

However, Moseley tore his ACL and now is hitting the market as a free agent going into his age-26 season.

The 49ers have encountered issues with injury-prone players, but Moseley is entering his prime and likely doesn't make the money that he deserves due to injury.

If the 49ers can retain the cornerback, he should be their No. 1 priority this offseason, given how strong the defense, and specifically coverage, was during the first few weeks of the season.

More importantly: the 49ers are likely losing Jimmie Ward to free agency, creating a hole in their starting secondary, which Deommodore Lenoir could fill should San Francisco retain Moseley.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • Frank
    I agree on some of them...but not McGlinchey. He's had 5 years at RT and is still a liability in pass protection. I think McKivitz could do a better job. They could draft an OT or sign a FA, as well. The other one I have an issue with is Brendel...he's ok, but not the C they need. In-house, it's been said Zakelj could be the C of the why not now. He's bigger and stronger than Brendel.
    Feb 7, 2023 at 12:45 AM

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