Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There will be some difficult decisions to be made, as some starters are free agents

If I were to tell you that Chase Young, Logan Ryan, and Oren Burks would play starter snaps in the biggest game of the season for the San Francisco 49ers, you would have a hard time believing that. Throw in Randy Gregory as a sub, which would have derailed the conversation.

The point is that the Niners find ways to revamp their roster every offseason — and, in this case, in season. That’ll be the case for San Francisco in 2024, as they have 18 unrestricted free agents.

We’ll list them, their age, and their salary from 2023 and give a brief answer about whether the team should re-sign the player. As free agency approaches, we’ll go into further depth about each individual free agent.

Restricted free agents won’t be listed, so you won’t see Jauan Jennings or Ben Bartch.

Randy Gregory – 31 – $14M

Gregory is on the wrong side of 30, and whenever he was called upon to play more than 20 snaps, his pressure rate dipped. The Niners need a youth movement.

Chase Young – 25 – $8.6M

Spotrac’s market value for Young is $13 million. He had his best game in the Super Bowl and has a tremendous relationship with Nick Bosa. The Niners must ask if they can get a Charles Omenihu-level second season out of Young. That’s a tall task and could lead them to let Young walk for what will be a comp pick in the third-round range.

Sam Darnold – 27 – $4.5M

The decision to keep Darnold will be based on how he performed in meetings and how much he helped Brock Purdy on the sidelines and in between series. That’s the value of a backup quarterback.

Plus, Darnold may want to compete as a starter elsewhere.

Javon Kinlaw – 26 – $3.8M

Kinlaw’s market value on Spotrac is $5.4 million annually. That would make him the 60th-highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL. For Kinlaw, will he view that as a prove-it deal? He also could go somewhere and start, as he’s finally healthy.

He had as many run stops in the Super Bowl as Nick Bosa despite playing 26 snaps compared to Bosa’s 68. Kinlaw is a productive player.

Tashaun Gipson – 33 – $2.9M

The 49ers love relying on veterans, and Gipson is a prime example. The progess of Talanoa Hufanga may determine whether Gipson is back, as Hufanga and Ji’Ayir Brown are the future at safety for this team. You couldn’t ask for more from Gipson during the past couple of seasons. He was signed off the street but never missed a game.

The 49ers came into the game asking him to cover Travis Kelce. He also lost the ball on a 52-yard pass to Mecole Hardman — a play that looked like an easy interception from my vantage point.

Sebastian Joseph – 29 – $2.7M

Joseph is a run-stuffing defensive tackle who only saw four snaps in the Super Bowl. That tells you what the coaching staff thinks of him as a depth piece.

Oren Burks – 29 – $2.5M

Burks has been criticized for his game, as he allowed all nine of his targets to be completed for 67 yards and gave up a touchdown. The worst part about those targets was that 44 of those 67 yards came after the catch. That’s the last thing you’ll remember, which makes it difficult to bring him back.

Dee Winters and Jalen Graham are waiting in the fold. Burks was considered a special teamer, so it’s difficult to fault him for struggling in a starter role.

Clelin Ferrell – 27 – $2.5M

The former 4th overall pick would go multiple games between generating pressures. Ferrell had the lowest pressure percentage of his career this season despite playing along the best defensive line of his life. That’s telling.

Jon Feliciano – 32 – $2.25M

Feliciano woke up pointing fingers:

He’s correct in pointing out that the blitz above isn’t on the right guard. It’s unfortunate how often people are incorrect when watching film because the narrative of a player can change because of it.

Still, it came at the expense of one of Felciano’s teammates:

Friends don’t let other friends drunk Tweet.

Kevin Givens – 28 – $2.1M

Givens is the ideal backup and has been on this team for some time. He played 27 snaps in the Super Bowl. He, like Kinlaw, may want a more prominent role elsewhere.

Ray-Ray McCloud – 27 – $2M

Will the 49ers want a different return man in 2024? It’s that simple. McCloud had a reception in the Super Bowl — and a fumble — but bringing him back will be based on whether the team can count on him to be healthy for 17 games as a returner.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles – 27 – $1.8M

You draft Winters and Graham to let Burks and DFF walk. That’s the forward-thinking that high-level organizations use.

Ross Dwelley – 29 – $1.7M

The same applies to Dwelley and Cameron Latu. Dwelley lost his job to Charlie Woerner as the TE2 on this team.

Brandon Allen – 31 – $1.2M

Copy and paste from Darnold, just for an emergency quarterback.

Chris Conley – 31 – $1.1M

Conley was outstanding in the Super Bowl, as he looked like one of the fastest players on the field covering kicks. The Niners should 100 percent bring Conley back in 2024.

Logan Ryan – 33 – $1.1M

There are too many examples of Ryan getting beaten in coverage — he allowed five of seven targets to be completed, gave up a touchdown, and 31 of the 43 yards were after the catch — to warrant him playing next season.

It’s one thing not to trust Ambry Thomas, but it’s another to expect a safety you signed late in the season to carry such a burden. The goal this offseason is to get younger and faster and better in the secondary.

The Chiefs started a bunch of kids in the secondary. Kyle Shanahan will have to evolve his thought process that only veterans can play in these spots.

Matt Pryor – 29 – $1.1M

Veteran depth, especially along the offensive line, is a different story.

Charlie Woerner – 26 – $869K

Woerner is an excellent blocker and can play on multiple special teams units. George Kittle said he was proud of how Woerner performed when he was out.

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