There are three major days on the NFL offseason calendar, and one of them is steadily approaching.
Beyond the regular season schedule release and first round of the NFL Draft, fans can always circle the opening day of free agency as one of the most important days of the year.
It will be no different in 2015 as the San Francisco 49ers have several important decisions to make on the offensive side of the ball.
To get you ready for the free agency kick-off set to begin next week, 49ers.com offers this free agency primer for the offensive side of the ball.
DATES TO KNOW
Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 1 p.m. PT on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 1 p.m. PT on March 10.
Prior to 1 p.m. PT, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.
Prior to 1 p.m. PT, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.
Prior to 1 p.m. PT, clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.
All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 1 p.m. PT.
Trading period begins at 1 p.m. PT.
NOTABLE 49ERS FREE AGENTS
RB Frank Gore**
The heart and soul of the 49ers offense for the past decade is set to hit the open market. Gore has long vowed his interest in returning to the franchise that made him a third-round draft pick in 2005. He cemented his feelings buy purchasing pizza for the Bay Area media at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Gore, 31, is coming off his eighth 1,000-yard rushing season. General manager Trent Baalke has maintained that the organization wants Gore back. If the franchise's all-time leading rusher does not return, the 49ers have second-year running back Pierre Garçon and veteran Kendall Hunter waiting in the wings.
LG Mike Iupati
The 49ers puta significant emphasis on power football in the 2010 draft by making Anthony Davis and Iupati first-round selections. Davis, the team's starting right tackle, has signed a contract extension with the club that will keep him in San Francisco through the 2019 season. Iupati, on the other hand, is set to test the free-agent market after making it to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. The 27-year-old lineman told reporters at the conclusion of the 2014 season that he wants to return. Should Iupati leave the team that drafted him five years ago, San Francisco has several young linemen (Brandon Thomas, Daniel Kilgore and Marcus Martin) who could line up at left guard next season.
WR Michael Crabtree
The 49ers have three free-agent receivers this offseason, including the team's first-round pick in 2009. Crabtree, unlike veteran wideouts Brandon Lloyd and Kassim Osgood, will be a free agent for the first time in his NFL career. And while he expressed a positive sentiment about his time with the 49ers and appreciation of the team's fan base, we don't know what Crabtree will do when the player movement begins next week. On the 49ers side of things, Baalke said the 49ers would meet with Crabtree and Iupati's representatives at the NFL Scouting Combine last week in Indianapolis.
UNDERRATED FREE AGENCY STORYLINE
The backup quarterback situation is one to watch for San Francisco. Both reserve signal-callers Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson are slated to be free agents. In each of the past two seasons, the 49ers have traded for veteran backups. In 2013 the team swapped a sixth-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for Colt McCoy. Last season, San Francisco acquired Gabbert from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round selection. The backup quarterback job on the 49ers is extremely important considering Colin Kaepernick's penchant for taking off on long runs. How will San Francisco address its quarterback depth this offseason? That storyline is one of the largest topics seldom discussed among the team's free agency chatter.
According to recent reports, the 49ers are bringing in veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. for a visit on Wednesday. Ginn played for San Francisco from 2010-12. His best year with the 49ers was in 2011, when he caught 19 passes for 220 yards. Ginn Jr. also brings value as a return specialist. He averaged 10.7 yards per punt return last season with the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers are also reportedly looking to bring in free-agent wideout Kevin Dorsey, who was released by the Green Bay Packers last week. Dorsey, a seventh-round draft pick out of Maryland in 2013, appeared in three games for the Packers last year. He caught one pass for four yards before a broken foot ended his season.
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LAST YEAR IN FREE AGENCY
The bulk of San Francisco's offensive additions last year came through trades and the draft. In addition to acquiring Gabbert via trade, the 49ers added veteran receiver Stevie Johnson and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin through deals with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, respectively. Perhaps the biggest free-agent signing was the addition of Lloyd to a one-year contract. The former 49ers draft pick returned to the Bay Area to catch 14 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown in his 11th season.
San Francisco has used free agency as an avenue to improve the team over the years.
OFFENSIVE RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Note: The list includes notable restricted free agents. A full list of names can be found here.
Jimmy Clausen, Chicago Bears
Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco 49ers
Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Ryan Mallett, Houston Texans
Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick, New York Jets
NFL.com's "Around the NFL" crew has named their top 25 free agents of 2015. Free agency officially begins on March 10.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
Chris Johnson, New York Jets
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (must void contract)
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
Henry Hynoski, New York Giants
John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers
Will Tukuafu, Seattle Seahawks
Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Wes Welker, Denver Broncos
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
James Casey, Philadelphia Eagles
Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
Niles Paul, Washington Redskins
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Joe Barksdale, St. Louis Rams
Byron Bell, Carolina Panthers
Michael Oher, Tennessee Titans
Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers
Todd Herremans, Philadelphia Eagles
James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks
Dan Connolly, New England Patriots
Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
Davin Joseph, St. Louis Rams
J.D. Walton, New York Giants
Brian De La Puente, Chicago Bears
Jonathan Goodwin, New Orleans Saints
Rodney Hudson, Kansas City Chiefs
Stefen Wisniewski, Oakland Raiders