The San Francisco 49ers have arguably the most talent-rich roster in the NFL. Loaded with stars on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, general manager John Lynch has worked magic in putting such a group together.
Being able to play a quarterback in Brock Purdy who is a) on the cheapest possible contract due to being the last pick of the draft, and b) really good has allowed Lynch to give head coach Kyle Shanahan the biggest toy box to play with in the league. Even with all the money the Niners are saving on the quarterback position, though, it will be impossible to keep this roster fully intact for next year.
Which 49ers free agents will be on the move this offseason? Today we'll take a look at four current Niners that the team should let walk when free agency hits next month.
4) 49ers can afford to let Ray-Ray McCloud leave in free agency
San Francisco has Kyle Shanahan's platonic ideal wide receiver room. Deebo Samuel is a game-breaking playmaker that the 49ers head coach can move all over the field. Brandon Aiyuk is one of the most technically sound route-runners in the NFL. Jauan Jennings is one of the most ferocious blocking wide receivers in the league. Even Chris Conley, who spent most of the year toiling on the practice squad, stepped up with a clutch 17-yard catch to convert a critical third-and-long against the Packers in the Divisional Round as Samuel missed time with an injury.
Samuel and Aiyuk are both under contract for 2024 (and Samuel has an additional year beyond that), plus the Niners have Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle, two of the most dynamic players at their positions in the league. To put it bluntly, they're not in need of any more playmakers. That's why, with Jennings, Conley, and Ray-Ray McCloud all hitting free agency, McCloud may be the odd man out.
Jennings is invaluable for his blocking. It may sound like I'm overrating that, but the Niners' running game is arguably the best in the league because not only does Shanahan innovate like no other coach, but every one of his players, including the receivers, buy-in when it comes to blocking. If you need further proof, just look at how Jennings practically drove Packers cornerback Carrington Valentine to Alcatraz a few weeks ago.
The fact that San Francisco's coaching staff trusted Conley with the team's season on the line tells me that he's coming back, too, especially with the special teams plays he also made in the Super Bowl. That leaves McCloud, who mostly functions as the team's primary returner. With so many mouths to feed on offense, the Clemson product only caught 12 balls in 12 games, and with the way the NFL has de-emphasized the return game so much, there's a good chance that Lynch opts not to bring him back.