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 specialists are set to become free agents:
Kicker Robbie Gould is an 18-year veteran of the league who's spent the past six seasons with San Francisco. He is on the final month of a two-year deal with the 49ers and is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Gould is as good as gold, climbing up to No. 10 on the NFL all-time points leaders list during the 2022 season and maintaining an unblemished postseason kicking record. In the team's most recent regular season campaign, Gould hit 27-of-32 field goals attempted and sunk 50-of-51 extra point attempts. Additionally, he went eight-of-eight in field goals and five-of-five in extra points during the 49ers run to the NFC Championship Game.
Long snapper Taybor Pepper has spent the better part of the last three seasons with the red and gold, coming to San Francisco midway through the 2020 Covid-19 season. He is on the second year of a two-year contract and will become an unrestricted free agent with five seasons of league experience.
Pepper played in at least 20 percent of available special teams snaps in both the 2022 regular season and playoffs. He is part of a specialist trio, including Gould and punter Mitch Wishnowsky, that added 27 field goals and 50 extra points to the 49ers points total during the 2022 campaign.