The 49ers had a busy few days to start the 2023 free agency period. Despite limited room to operate under the cap, San Francisco made a splash with former Eagles DT Javon Hargrave, and then made a handful of other moves to fill out some key spots on their roster. They also re-signed a few of their own players – some of whom will take on new roles in 2023.
We went through each of the signings and re-signings to project how the 49ers’ free agency moves might impact the team this season:
DL Javon Hargrave
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This is an easy one. Hargrave figures to start and play heavy snaps alongside Arik Armstead in the interior of the 49ers’ defensive line. He’s good against the run and a dominant pass rusher from the inside. There may not be a more impactful free agent addition anywhere in the NFL this offseason.
QB Sam Darnold
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There’s a world where Darnold wears several hats for San Francisco this season, but he’ll begin the offseason as the backup quarterback behind Trey Lance while Brock Purdy rehabs from offseason elbow surgery. Lance is the clear frontrunner for the starting job while Purdy’s out, but it’s not inconceivable that Darnold pushes for that spot if Lance doesn’t take a step forward in his development. If all goes well for the 49ers though and all three of their QBs are healthy, Darnold figures to be third on the depth chart.
CB Isaiah Oliver
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Oliver struggled through his first three NFL seasons while playing on the outside. A move inside for the 2021 season came with some success before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear during the fourth game of the season. Complications with that ACL tear last year kept him out for five games, but the 12 games he played were his best as a pro. He’ll be the frontrunner for the starting nickel job in San Francisco, but there should be some competition there with second-year CB Samuel Womack.
DL Clelin Ferrell
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It’s easy to draw a line between Arden Key, Charles Omenihu and Clelin Ferrell. Key revitalized his career in San Francisco by taking on a pass rushing role where he played both inside and on the edge. Omenihu got a sizable contract in free agency from the Chiefs thanks to playing the same role for the 49ers. Now Ferrell figures to step in similarly. In Las Vegas he spent a little time at defensive tackle, but he was very much a traditional edge rusher. That figures to change some in San Francisco with a more versatile role where he moves around on the defensive line.
OL Colton McKivitz
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McKivitz signed a two-year deal before the legal negotiating window opened. The 2020 fifth-round pick is the frontrunner for the starting right tackle job and he may not have a ton of competition. At best he starts the season at RT replacing Mike McGlinchey. At worst he’s a swing tackle with a little bit of versatility to play on the interior.
S Tashaun Gipson
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The starting free safety job is Gipson’s for the 2023 season. He led the team with five interceptions this year and for the most part played well in the back end of San Francisco’s secondary. Barring a dramatic change in his play or the rapid rise of an unknown addition, Gipson will man the spot alongside Talanoa Hufanga again.
WR Juan Jennings
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Jennings was an exclusive rights free agent so there was never really a scenario where he was going to leave the 49ers. He’ll be back in the same third wide receiver role this year. It’ll be interesting to see if he can carve out a bigger red zone role after hauling in just one TD last season. He’ll at least be a third-down threat again, which is really all the 49ers need from him. Anything more would be gravy in an already loaded offensive arsenal.
OL Jake Brendel
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It’d be a huge surprise if anyone other than Brendel starts at center this year. He played well in all 17 games a season ago and got a nice payday from the 49ers on a four-year contract. Brendel is their answer in the middle of the offensive line for the foreseeable future.
DL Kevin Givens
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Givens was due for restricted free agency, but agreed to a one-year deal with San Francisco. He’ll slot back in as a rotational defensive tackle, although he could wind up as the top reserve behind Hargrave depending on how Javon Kinlaw looks through the offseason and training camp.
LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
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One of the 49ers’ camp battles will take place at the Sam linebacker spot – that’s the LB on the field when San Francisco is in its base 4-3 defense. Azeez Al-Shaair filled that role before signing with the Titans this offseason. Flannigan-Fowles is the frontrunner to take on that job, but veteran Oren Burks will be in the mix, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the 49ers add another LB via the draft to compete for that spot.
DL TY McGill
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McGill was a pleasant surprise in nine games for the 49ers last season. His job in 2023 figures to be the same as it was at the end of 2022. He may see a more regular playing time this season though. Last year his snap counts ranged from seven to 38. This year expect it to be a little more regular.
Story originally appeared on Niners Wire