Roster turnover year-to-year is expected in the NFL, and similarly to the end of last season, the San Francisco 49ers have a sizable group from the 2022 roster set to hit the open market. A total of 27 players with expiring contracts will officially enter free agency at the start of the new NFL league year on March 15. The open negotiating period for unrestricted free agents begins on March 13.
Fortunately for the 49ers, and the rest of the teams across the league, there will be some extra resources to work with as coaches and front offices are constructing their rosters for the upcoming season. The NFL salary cap has been increased to $224.8 million per club, allowing clubs an additional $16.6 million from the $208.6 million salary cap in 2022.
Here is a breakdown of free agency designations and an important glossary of terms, according to NFL.com:
Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA): Any player with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract; free to negotiate and sign with any team.
Restricted Free Agent (RFA): A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. 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.
Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA): 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.
Accrued seasons: Used to determine a player's free agency status (unrestricted, restricted, exclusive rights). In order to accrue a season, a player must have been on (or should have been on) full-play status for at least six regular-season games in a given season. A player under contract must report to his team's training camp on his mandatory reporting date in order to earn an accrued season.
The following 49ers are set to become free agents:
Azeez Al-Shaair began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with the 49ers back in 2019 and has become a staple in San Francisco's linebacker corps alongside Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. When his one-year deal with the red and gold expires in mid-March, the veteran linebacker will become an unrestricted free agent. In 2022, Al-Shaair recorded 44 total tackles including one tackle-for-loss and a quarterback hit in addition to a fumble recovery.
Defensive lineman Samson Ebukam has six seasons of NFL experience under his belt including a four-year stint with the Los Angeles Rams and a two-year deal with the 49ers. Ebukam put up impressive numbers in 2022, racking up 36 total tackles and a career-high 5.0 sacks (second most on the team). He is set to become one of San Francisco's 23 unrestricted free agents.
Tashaun Gipson Sr. was a late training camp pickup by the 49ers that exceeded expectations in 2022. The veteran safety began his stint with the 49ers on the team's practice squad before being activated to the 53-man roster ahead of the season opener versus the Chicago Bears. Gipson Sr. started all 20 games (regular and postseason) during San Francisco's 2022 campaign, posting 61 total tackles and led the team in interceptions (5). He will enter the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst suffered a torn biceps during training camp and spent the entirety of his third season with San Francisco on the Injured Reserve list. In 2021, Hurst also had his season affected by injury, appearing in just two games and registering two tackles due to a lingering calf issue. He was on a one-year contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Kerry Hyder Jr. wrapped up his second stint with San Francisco in 2022, returning to The Bay after spending the 2021 season with the Seattle Seahawks. The defensive lineman recorded 19 total tackles, including a sack and four quarterback hits in addition to four pass breakups. He is set to enter free agency after the expiration of his one-year deal with the 49ers.
T.Y. McGill was a midseason practice squad addition for San Francisco that bolstered the depth of the 49ers defensive line. After being signed in early October, McGill appeared in 12 contests (regular and postseason) for San Francisco, racking up 10 total tackles in that span. He is one of six 49ers defensive linemen that will become unrestricted free agents.
Defensive back Tarvarius Moore returned to action in 2022 after being sidelined the previous year after suffering a torn Achilles. The fifth-year pro was primarily used as a special teams player, recording 270 of 330 snaps in both the regular season and playoffs in that phase of the game. He will enter the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
The former undrafted free agent has spent the past five seasons with San Francisco, and prior to his ACL tear in Week 5, the veteran cornerback was on track for tremendous production in 2022. Moseley started five games in tandem with Charvarius Ward and amassed 22 total tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown and had five pass breakups. He closed out the year on the Injured Reserve list and will enter the free agency period as an unrestricted free agent.
Charles Omenihu came to the 49ers by way of trade with the Houston Texans in Week 9 of the 2021 season and has seen significant playing time on San Francisco's defensive front since his arrival. The defensive lineman appeared in all 17 regular season games this season and recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2022. Omenihu also totaled 20 tackles, 16 of which were quarterback hits. He is another of San Francisco's six defensive linemen entering the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
Hassan Ridgeway will become an unrestricted free agent in March following the completion of his one-year deal with the 49ers. The defensive lineman was brought in to further bolster the depth of San Francisco's defensive front and appeared in 12 contests (seven starts) before suffering a pectoral injury in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins. He was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-December and closed out the year with 28 total tackles, including a sack and four quarterback hits.
The veteran cornerback is coming off a second-straight season derailed by injury. Jason Verrett tore his right ACL in the 2021 season opener versus the Detroit Lions and was nearing his return in 2022 before suffering a torn Achilles in practice. He started 13 games during the 2020 season and recorded 60 total tackles and seven passes defended. Verrett is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The longest tenured player in a 49ers uniform will become an unrestricted free agent in March. Jimmie Ward has spent the entirety of his career with San Francisco working in as a defensive back and free safety. In 2022, the nine-year pro appeared in 15 games (five starts) throughout the regular season and playoffs and posted 63 total tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defended in that span.
Defensive lineman Jordan Willis came to San Francisco via a trade with the New York Jets and recently wrapped up his second full season with the red and gold. The six-year pro spent the first half of the 2022 season on the Injured Reserve list and returned to action in Week 10 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Willis provided a boost to the 49ers dominant defensive line and racked up 11 total tackles, including 2.0 sacks, three tackles-for-loss and four quarterback hits. He will enter the NFL free agency period as an unrestricted free agent.
Linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles played the bulk of his 424 regular and postseason snaps on special teams, closing out the year with 11 total tackles in that phase of the game. The former undrafted free agent has spent the entirety of his three-year career with the 49ers and is set become a restricted free agent in March.
Defensive lineman Kevin Givens is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of his fourth season with the 49ers. The former undrafted free agent was an integral part of San Francisco's defensive line, making 10 regular season starts and 16 total appearances through the team's run to the NFC Championship Game. Givens had 20 total tackles, including 2.0 sacks, seven tackles-for-loss and three quarterback hits in the regular season.