Where things stand with the 49ers’ roster: Biggest needs are OT and kicker

The 49ers have added and lost — and lost some more — free agents in the last three days, and their roster is starting to take shape.

Yes, there are still players to add and we’ll highlight the three biggest needs below. But with sparse salary cap space and their first NFL Draft selection coming at the end of the third round, it’s likely that most of the key pieces are already in place.

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Here’s a position-by-position look at where things stand and where work is still needed.


On board: Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold

Departure: Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders), Josh Johnson

Incoming: Rookie

Lance figures to be the team’s top quarterback when OTAs begin in May, with Darnold in the backup spot, the same role Nate Sudfeld occupied last spring. The situation gets more complicated in late summer once Purdy’s right elbow is fully healed, but we suspect he’ll need some time to take over the No. 2 role from Darnold or the No. 1 role from Lance. Which is to say, as much as everyone likes to get hot and bothered over quarterback controversies, the topic will likely be moot until September.

How about a fourth quarterback? It’s possible. Purdy didn’t get much work last spring as Lance and Sudfeld swallowed the majority of the practice snaps. But he did see action in training camp and the preseason. A rookie, someone signed late in the draft or after the draft, could fill that role in the offseason and then start the season on the practice squad. The active list? When everyone is healthy, the 49ers could carry three quarterbacks for the first time in years.


The 49ers bolster the QB room with Sam Darnold, who they’ve had their eye on for years

Running back

On board: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk (back)

Departure: Tevin Coleman

Incoming: Undrafted rookie

This position seems as stable as it has been in several years after McCaffrey’s acquisition and Mason’s encouraging rookie season. There would be a collective freakout by the fan base if the 49ers used a third-round pick on a running back for the third straight season, and rightfully so. With Bobby Turner and Anthony Lynn coaching — and scouting — the position, the team’s best strategy may be to acquire running backs after the draft, as it did with Mason, Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Matt Breida in previous years. All are still in the league. Coleman could also be available during the season if there are injury problems.

Wide receiver

On board: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings (offered), Ray-Ray McCloud III, Danny Gray, Tay Martin, Dazz Newsome

Departure: Willie Snead IV

Incoming: Rookies, budget veterans

The 49ers kept just five receivers on the 53-man roster for most of the 2022 season, and those same five, if healthy, could also be the only active roster members this season. The draft is deep at wide receiver, and the team already appears to be searching for future replacements for McCloud, who serves as the team’s punt returner and is only signed through 2023. The 49ers usually carry 11 or 12 receivers on their 90-man offseason roster. As it stands now, they have seven. Look for them to draft at least one wideout and add more afterward.

The 49ers could go with the same five receivers — including Ray-Ray McCloud III — next season. (Sergio Estrada / USA Today)

Close end

On board: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner

Departure: Tyler Kroft, Ross Dwelley, Jordan Matthews

Incoming: Rookie, budget free agent

The 49ers kept four tight ends on the active roster last season, though they were rarely in uniform at the same time. Look for the 49ers to add a tight end in what is being hailed as the best draft at the position in a while. Some combination of Kroft, Dwelley or Matthews could also be back in the mix this offseason on minimum salary deals. Kroft spent most of last season as the team’s No. 2 tight end.

Offensive line

On board: Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Nick Zakelj, Jason Poe, Keith Ismael, Leroy Watson, Alfredo Gutierrez

Departure: Mike McGlinchey (Broncos), Daniel Brunskill (Titans)

Incoming: Rookie or free agent

The 49ers seem OK on the interior of the line. Brendel, Zakelj and Ismael – who spent almost all of last season on the practice squad – are the centers with Banks, Burford, Poe, Zakelj and Ismael at guard. The tackle space is thin, however, and the team could stand to bring in a veteran. Or maybe the 49ers combine some of their 11 draft picks and grab a quality tackle on Day 2 of the draft. One to watch this offseason is Watson, a tight end-to-tackle convert who made positive strides in that transition last season.


The 49ers resign Jake Brendel as they aim for needed continuity at center

Defensive line

On board: Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kalia Davis, Alex Barrett

Departure: Samson Ebukam (Colts), Charles Omenihu (Chiefs), Hassan Ridgeway (Texans), Kerry Hyder Jr., Jordan Willis, Kemoko Turay, Maurice Hurst, TY McGill, Michael Dwumfour

Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie

The 49ers did a good job filling out their defensive line with Hargrave and Ferrell, but they still lack numbers. The team likes to have eight defensive linemen active on game days, 10 on the 53-man roster and 14 or 15 on the offseason roster. Willis and Turay could be options to return, and the team has recently had discussions about Willis, who is also a fixture on special teams. The draft, meanwhile, is deep at defensive line, and it would be a mild surprise if the 49ers didn’t make a pick at that position.


49ers add Javon Hargrave as NFL’s top defense gets even better


On board: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson

Departure: Azeez Al-Shaair (Titans), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie

The 49ers expected to lose Al-Shaair, their longtime No. 3 linebacker, who is earmarked for an all-down role at Tennessee. They did not tender Flannigan-Fowles, who was slated to be a restricted free agent. He now becomes an unrestricted free agent and can come back on a league-minimum deal. With Al-Shaair gone, Burks is the de facto No. 3 linebacker. However, McCrary-Ball should be fun to watch this offseason. An undrafted rookie last year, he is fast and aggressive and has a good shot to make the active roster.

Oren Burks could be ticketed for the No. 3 linebacker role following the free departure of Azeez Al-Shaair. (Kelley L Cox / USA Today)


On board: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack III, Ambry Thomas, Qwuantrezz Knight, AJ Parker

Departure: Jimmie Ward (Texans), Emmanuel Moseley (Lions), Jason Verrett, Janoris Jenkins

Incoming: Mid-level rookie free agent

The position was crying out for another seasoned veteran after the 49ers lost Jimmie Ward and Moseley. So they brought in Oliver, who has appeared in 62 games for the Falcons over the past five seasons and is earmarked to take over Jimmie Ward’s nickel cornerback role. The move should allow Lenoir to remain on the outside, where he made progress late in the season. We included Knight at cornerback because he played it — especially nickel cornerback — as a rookie last offseason and stuck with the practice squad all year. He is also an option at safety.


On board: Tashaun Gipson Sr., Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, Tyler Hawkins

Departure: Tarvarius Moore, Dontae Johnson

Incoming: Budget veteran, rookie

The first three spots are set with Gipson, Hufanga and Odum. The fourth? There hasn’t been any buzz about Moore in free agency yet, so there’s little chance he’ll return on a one-year deal. Hawkins and Knight are certainly candidates to fill the fourth spot, and Knight has the potential to be a special teamer like Moore has been.

Special teams

On board: P Mitch Wishnowsky, LS Taybor Pepper, PR McCloud

Departure: K Gould

Incoming: High-end veteran, budget veteran, rookie

The 49ers and Gould apparently don’t agree on compensation — hence the report earlier this month that Gould will play “elsewhere” this season. Still, Gould remains on the market, and as long as he does, he has the opportunity to return. If he signs with e.g. Cowboys, the 49ers could go with a cheaper veteran, someone like Eddy Piñeiro, Matt Prater or whoever loses the Chargers’ kicker competition between Cameron Dicker and Dustin Hopkins. The 49ers could also draft a kicker. Michigan’s Jake Moody is considered the top prospect, although a potential problem with him is that the Lions are also looking for kickers and could be attracted to the guy who kicked just down the road in Ann Arbor.

(Top photo of Robbie Gould and Clelin Ferrell: Chris Unger/Getty Images)

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