The 49ers can make concerted efforts to keep Trent Williams, Kyle Juszczyk, Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams from reaching the free-agent market next month.
But those efforts likely are to be futile.
Andrew Brandt, who has experience as a player agent and as an executive with the Green Bay Packers, told NBC Sports Bay Area on "49ers Talk" there is no reason for players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents to sign extensions now.
“Unless, as I call it, you get a stupid offer,” Brandt said. “Unless you get a stupid offer right now, there’s no reason.
“There’s no injury risk, right? There’s no injury risk. So when you go to them in September, you got 16 games of injury risk. Now, you’re not going to get injured, sitting at home in Zoom the next three weeks.”
When a player has a year or more remaining on his contract, it can be mutually beneficial for both sides to work toward a contract extension. Rather than wait a season to hit free agency and assume the risk of a catastrophic injury, a player could accept a little less money as part of a tradeoff.
Williams, 32, is likely to be the most coveted offensive tackle on the free-agent market. He played at a high level in 2020 with the 49ers after coming to the organization in a draft-day trade with the Washington Football Team. He could fetch a multi-year contract in the neighborhood of $20 million a year.
As part of a restructured deal Williams signed after the trade, the 49ers are not allowed to retain him via the franchise tag.
Williams addressed his looming free agency after the season.
“If I’m not here, I’m obviously going to want to maximize my value, but I do understand that anytime you have a roster that has a lot of good players, you’re not going to have a wealth of salary cap space," Williams said.
Juszczyk, a fullback, and cornerbacks Verrett and Williams also are likely to attract significant attention on the free-agent market. But none is likely to warrant a contract at the level that it would make sense for the 49ers to designate any of them as their franchise player.
The NFL’s open negotiating period for free agents runs from March 15 to March 17. The free-agent signing period opens March 17 at 1 p.m.
Until that time, each team holds sole negotiating rights with their own free agents.
But, Brandt warns, that 49ers fans should not expect the club to lock in any of their most-coveted free agents to multi-year contracts before then.
“You can tell the fans, they’re not doing deals now,” Brandt said. “No one’s doing deals now who’s a free agent. I’ve talked to a couple of free agents and their agents, and they’ve been clear that they’re not going to do that.”