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:
Offensive lineman Jake Brendel became a starter in his second season with the 49ers, replacing the retired Alex Mack at center. Brendel, along with Spencer Burford and Aaron Banks, were the three new additions to the interior of San Francisco's starting offensive line. The fifth-year pro played 93 percent or more of the offensive snaps in all but one of the 49ers 20 contests in 2022. According to Pro Football Focus, Brendel closed out the 2022 season as a top 20 center, allowing just one sack and three quarterback hits during the 49ers NFC Championship run. He will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
The former undrafted free agent wrapped up his fourth season with the 49ers and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Daniel Brunskill missed the first three games of the season due to a lingering hamstring injury from the preseason, but appeared in every regular season and playoff contest from that point forward. Brunskill did not allow a single sack and just one quarterback hit in the 49ers run to the NFC Championship Game.
Ross Dwelley is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the completion of his fifth season with the 49ers. The former undrafted free agent provides depth to a tight end room that includes Pro Bowler George Kittle, Charlie Woerner and Tyler Kroft. Dwelley appeared in 12 contests during San Francisco's deep postseason run and recorded three catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Jimmy Garoppolo was one of San Francisco's three starting signal callers over the course of the 2022 season. The veteran quarterback took over the 49ers offense in Week 2 in relief of an injured Trey Lance in the team's home opener versus the Seattle Seahawks. Garoppolo played through the better part of 11 weeks before being sidelined with a fractured foot in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins. In his 11 appearances (10 starts), Garoppolo completed 207-of-308 passes for 2,437 yards and 16 scores in addition to a couple rushing touchdowns of his own. He is set to enter the NFL free agency period as an unrestricted free agent after spending the past six seasons with San Francisco.
The Bay Area native signed on for his fourth stint with the 49ers in early December to back up rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. Johnson made just two appearances over the course of his contract, taking over in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then replacing Purdy in the NFC Championship Game. Johnson connected on 7-of-13 passes for 74 yards and a fumble against the Philadelphia Eagles before suffering a concussion in the third quarter. The veteran quarterback is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Tyler Kroft helped bolster San Francisco's tight end room in 2022 after spending his previous seven seasons playing for various AFC teams. A lingering knee injury cost Kroft five games at the start of the year, but the tight end was active for 11 regular season contests, catching four passes for 57 yards. When his contract expires, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Jordan Matthews is a wideout turned tight end that has spent several stints with San Francisco over the course of the last four seasons. Matthews most recent season with San Francisco was derailed by injury. The tight end suffered an ACL injury in training camp ahead of the 2022 season that landed him on the Injured Reserve list for the entirety of the year.
Former first round pick (2018 NFL Draft) Mike McGlinchey is set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent after spending the last five seasons in red and gold. The tackle started all 20 of the 49ers contests in 2022, working in tandem with All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams. McGlinchey allowed six sacks and just three quarterback hits this season on the team's run to the NFC Championship Game.
The offensive lineman is closing out his third season with the 49ers, appearing in 16 of the team's 20 contests on the way to the NFC Championship Game. Colton McKivitz suffered an MCL sprain that sidelined him for four weeks of the regular season, but he was able to return to action in Week 10 versus the Los Angeles Chargers. The bulk of the offensive lineman's contributions came on special teams over the course of 2022, with McKivitz only making one regular season start. He is one of three 49ers players set to become restricted free agents.
The former seventh round draft pick is San Francisco's only player set to become an exclusive rights free agent in March. After starting his NFL journey on the 49ers practice squad in 2020, Jauan Jennings has made a name for himself as the 49ers third down specialist and put up solid numbers in 2022, catching 35 passes for 416 yards and a touchdown during the regular season.