49ers free agent watch

With free agency on the horizon, the San Francisco 49ers have decisions to make on some of their key players. Here’s a look at some of the bigger names on the team who are set to hit the open market.

Frank Gore

Despite his advanced age, Gore showed that when given the carries, he could still produce like a lead back. Gore finished ninth overall in the NFL in rushing with 1,106 yards and and saved his best for last, gaining 302 of that in the final two games of the season.

After 10 years and 11,073 yards on the ground, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers taking the field without their all-time leading rusher, but there’s a possibility that will happen.

The two sides have had contact but with free agency looming and no deal, Gore will have his suitors on the open market.

Mike Iupati

While his pass blocking has been less than stellar, Iupati’s presence in the running game will have team’s lining up to sign the mauling guard. The 49ers have been preparing for this day, and have Brandon Thomas, Joe Looney, and the loser of the Marcus Martin/Daniel Kilgore center battle as fall backs.

Considering the team is already scheduled to pay Alex Boone $3.7 million in 2015, is unlikely they would meet Iupati’s asking price and allocate so much money to the guard position.

In an ideal the world, the two sides would find a way to make it work, but it seems likely Iupati will be playing elsewhere very soon.

Michael Crabtree

It’s safe to say that Crabtree never quite lived up to his billing as the best receiver in the 2009 draft. In six seasons with the 49ers, he only eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark once and battled through injuries.

Even if you take his career production and average it out over a 16 game season, Crabtree’s numbers are still far from elite. His 4.4 receptions and 54.8 yards per game would project him at 70 receptions and 877 yards.

Combine that with the fact that Crabtree has managed a mere 26 touchdowns in 79 games, and it solidifies that Crabtree isn’t quite number one receiver material.

If he’s willing to accept a contract that reflects what’s been seen on the field so far, there could be a fit in San Francisco. However, if Crabtree is looking for top-tier receiver money, it’s safe to say this marriage will end.

Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox

While the 49ers would love to have their starting corners for most of 2014 back, salary cap space will only allow them to sign one of Culliver/Cox at best. That should work fine, as there is more here on the roster than meets the eye.

With Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward scheduled to come back from injuries, two of the team’s three top corners will be set. There’s also the possibility that Dontae Johnson showed enough in his rookie year to be considered someone who can play important snaps. Keep in mind that San Francisco also took a flyer on Keith Reaser in the 2014 draft, who could rebound from knee surgery.

Odds are that Culliver will be get big money on the open market, so that may make Cox a more reasonable bet to return.

Dan Skuta

While he would likely play a backup role behind Aldon Smith and Aaron Lynch, Skuta has proved to be a very valuable asset over the past two seasons. He’s started 18 games from 2012-13, and been stout against the run while recording 5.0 sacks (all last year).

Skuta may have the opportunity to start on another team, but if he’s willing to give the 49ers a hometown discount, he would continue to provide depth in the event of an injury (or suspension).

Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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