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Five 49ers’ starters who may be entering their final season in SF

Marc Adams
Jul 6, 2024 at 10:32 AM



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The San Francisco 49ers have 41 players scheduled to be free agents in March of 2025. Three are restricted free agents (RFA), meaning they could stay with the team. Running back Jordan Mason, for example, is one. According to NFL.com, "RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers ("tenders") that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. If the tender is withdrawn by a team, the RFA becomes an unrestricted free agent."

The team also has seven exclusive rights free agents (ERFA). Per NFL.com, "An ERFA is any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams." WR Tay Martin and S Tayler Hawkins are both examples of the 49ers exclusive rights free agents.

Of course, there's also the ongoing drama surrounding the futures of wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. I heard someone on a podcast this week say that 2024 will be Samuel's last season with the 49ers. I find that hard to believe, but we'll see. For this article, let's assume Aiyuk and Samuel will return in 2025. One of them may not, but we'll figure on them both being back.

There are several free agents, new to the 49ers, that the team signed to one-year deals this offseason. TE Logan Thomas, DT Maliek Collins, LB De'Vondre Campbell, and Isaac Yiadom are examples of such players. I didn't include any of those, choosing instead to focus on those who have been with the team for at least a few seasons and are expected to be starters in 2024.

There are some non-starters, like RB Elijah Mitchell and CB Amby Thomas, who will likely be playing in his final season with the 49ers. Both players have started plenty of games for the 49ers, but are now backups. Thomas may not even make the team this season.

SO let's get to the list. Here are five 49ers' starters who may be entering their final year in San Francisco:

1. CB Charvarius Ward


Charvarius Ward is a true number-one corner who you can line up against the other team's top receiver, and trust that he will fare well. Last season, the 49ers sometimes lined up Ward against the opponent's number-one wideout, and Ward came up huge. Some of Ward's most impressive games came against some of the league's best receivers. In Week 12, at Seattle, Ward followed Seahawks' WR D.K. Metcalf around all game. Metcalf was targetted nine times, but he only caught three passes for 32 yards.

And Ward is reliable. He started all 17 regular season games in 2023, despite dealing with an injury for part of the season. So Ward won't come cheap in 2025. The 49ers would love to keep him, but it won't be easy unless they can sign him to an extension before he becomes a free agent.

2. CB Deommodore Lenoir


Losing Ward and Deommodore Lenoir in 2025 would be a big blow to the 49ers secondary. And because of this, I believe they will bring one of them back, and if they do, it's most likely to be Lenoir, as he won't cost as much as Ward. We may even see Lenoir get extended during training camp or even during the season.

Lenoir has been very good since becoming a starter for the 49ers. He can play outside or inside. And even though this makes him more valuable, some teams may see him as a nickel corner, and he may have a hard time finding the kind of deal he wants.

My best guess is that he returns in 2025, but it's also possible Lenoir could move on.

3. LG Aaron Banks


Left guard Aaron Banks has been reliable, but he hasn't been anything special. Still, he may get paid well in 2025, much like Laken Tomlinson did before him. And we all know the 49ers don't like to pay their guards.

Banks has had a great situation, playing next to future Hall of Fame tackle, Trent Williams. But with rookie Dominick Puni waiting his turn, I fully expect 2024 to be the final season Banks plays for the 49ers. He's been a good starter, but the 49ers should be able to upgrade at left guard.

4. RG Jon Feliciano


Jon Feliciano has been a good player for the 49ers. Last season, he took over the right guard position from Spencer Burford. He played well enough that had he not been injured during the Super Bowl, the 49ers might have won the game. His replacement (Burford) missed a key assignment that allowed Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones to pressure QB Brock Purdy immediately after the snap. Purdy was forced to throw the ball away, and San Francisco had to settle for a field goal, rather than scoring the game-winning touchdown.

But again, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch don't like to spend much on guards. So even though the 49ers may prefer to have Felciano beyond 2024, it's unlikely to happen unless he returns on a team-friendly, one-year-type deal.

5. S Talanoa Hufanga


There are a couple of injured starters, LB Dre Greenlaw and S Talanoa Hufanga, whose injuries might make it easier to bring them back. I have to think they'll find a way to bring back Greenlaw. He's a crucial part of the 49ers defense.

Hufanga, a former All-Pro, is an important piece, as well. But he should return early in the season. And if he has another good year, he could end up costing more than the 49ers are willing to pay. The team doesn't generally like to pay safeties very much, and Hufanaga is a similar kind of safety to second-year player Ji'Ayire Brown and rookie Malik Mustapha. Do they need three safeties who are similar to one another?

Those are five starters who may be entering the final season of their 49ers career. Perhaps the team will find a way to bring them all back. I just don't think it is likely.
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