This is a running analysis of the 49ers’ moves and key departures during this season of free agency. The legal tampering window began Monday at 9 a.m. PT and the NFL’s new league year, when teams can formally sign free agents who played elsewhere in 2022, began on Wednesday.
Best remaining available: The Athletic’s top 150 free agents
Live updates: News, predictions, analysis and updates
Free agency grades: The Athletic’s Mike Jones grades all the signings
Does free agency work?: Evaluating value from 2020-2022
DB Myles Hartsfield
March 18: Hartsfield, 25, will sign a one-year deal with the 49ers that will reunite him with defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, a league source told The Athletic. Hartsfield last year started games at both nickel cornerback and safety for the Panthers, and he was a core special teams player as well. The 49ers recently signed Isaiah Oliver to play the nickel position. Hartsfield could become their fourth safety, someone who would step in for Tashaun Gipson Sr. if there were an injury. Hartsfield has excellent athleticism. He even took some snaps at running back as a rookie. That might make him an emergency fill-in at that position, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility given San Francisco’s injury history at tailback.
March 17: The Browns signed Hurst, 27, to a one-year deal. Hurst joined the 49ers in 2021 but was limited to two games because of a lingering calf injury. He tore his biceps the following summer and spent the 2022 season on injured reserve.
March 17: The Packers announced they signed Moore, who served as the 49ers’ No. 4 safety and gunner last season, to a one-year deal. Moore, 26, was one of the fastest players in the 2018 draft and the 49ers originally had him play outside cornerback. He was better suited, however, at safety and as a special teams coverage player, which were his roles in recent seasons. The 49ers’ first three safeties currently are Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson Sr. and George Odum. They will seek a No. 4 this offseason.
LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
March 16: The 49ers declined to tender Flannigan-Fowles as a restricted free agent. The lowest amount was $2.63 million, which means the 49ers’ one-year deal with him is lower than that. Flannigan-Fowles played 81 snaps on defense in 2022 but 276 snaps on special teams, the fourth most on the team. He’ll compete for a backup role against the likes of Marcelino McCrary-Ball and Curtis Robinson this season.
March 16: The 49ers added some more depth at defensive tackle by re-signing the 30-year-old McGill, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. McGill initially signed onto the practice squad last season before seeing a promotion to the active roster. He logged 11 pressures over 246 snaps on the season. The 49ers struggled to generate pressure from the interior last season, but their group of defensive tackles is looking much more robust heading into 2023. It features Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kalia Davis and now McGill.
CB Isaiah Oliver
March 15: After losing Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency, the 49ers agreed to terms with Oliver, one of the better slot cornerbacks on the market, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. Oliver, 26, has good size at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds with 33 1/2-inch arms. A second-round pick in 2018, he played nearly 62 percent of his snaps last season out of the slot with opponents managing just a 72.4 passer rating when targeting him. Oliver’s addition allows Deommodore Lenoir to continue to play on the outside where he made strides late last season.
Isaiah Oliver offers valuable versatility to the 49ers secondary
March 15: In 2019, the 49ers drafted Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick and the Raiders took Ferrell two selections later. Their careers haven’t exactly mirrored each other since. While Bosa has 43 regular-season sacks and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year for 2022, Ferrell has just 10 sacks in that span and wasn’t given the fifth-year option by Las Vegas. That said, the 49ers have specialized in resurrection projects along the defensive line with Kerry Hyder Jr., Arden Key and Charles Omenihu all having career-best seasons under position coach Kris Kocurek’s tutelage. The hope is that Ferrell, who will sign a one-year deal, The Athletic confirmed, will have a similar career bounce. The 49ers’ biggest need at the moment is at defensive end. But like like Hyder, Key and Omenihu, Ferrell can play both on the end and inside.
DL Charles Omenihu
March 14: Omenihu, 25, heads to the Chiefs on a two-year deal, a source confirmed to The Athletic. The 49ers acquired Omenihu in a trade with the Texans midway through the 2021 season and he turned in his best season to date in 2022. Omenihu filled in as needed as a defensive end and defensive tackle, and his forced fumble against the Seahawks on Jan. 14 was one of the 49ers’ biggest plays of the postseason. Later that month, Omenihu was arrested in San Jose on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence. Local prosecutors are considering whether to move forward with that case.
March 14: The Titans are expected to sign the versatile 49ers’ O-lineman, who played at all five positions for the 49ers over the past four years, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. New Tennessee general manager Ran Carthon came from the 49ers, so he’s certainly familiar with Brunskill’s inspiring story: The lineman was a backup journeyman until he refined his technique in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) in 2019 prior to joining the 49ers. Brunskill delivered at both left and right tackle in 2019 before playing at center in 2020 and ultimately starting for the 49ers at right guard. The team must now search for quality depth to replace Brunskill.
DE Samson Ebukam
March 14: The 49ers need a new bookend for Nick Bosa after Ebukam agreed to a deal with the Colts, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. Ebukam, 27, had the best season of his career in 2022 with five sacks and 13 quarterback hits. But the 49ers didn’t feel his production matched his price tag, and they instead spent their free-agent dollars on another defensive lineman, Javon Hargrave. With Hargrave at defensive tackle, the 49ers could move Arik Armstead to defensive end on base downs and use Drake Jackson on passing downs. The team also has been in contact with impending free agent Jordan Willis and likely will use at least one draft pick on a defensive lineman.
March 14: The 49ers were well aware that their longtime No. 3 linebacker would be moving on after they inked starters Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw to long-term deals in recent years. Al-Shaair will get an opportunity for a starting role with the Titans and their new general manager, Ran Carthon, who agreed to terms with the linebacker on Tuesday, The Athletic confirmed. The 49ers’ No. 3 linebacker now becomes Oren Burks with Marcelino McCrary-Ball and Curtis Robinson also part of the offseason mix.
CB Emmanuel Moseley
March 14: Moseley, who started the season opposite Charvarius Ward at cornerback, will join the Lions on a one-year, a league source confirmed to The Athletic. The 49ers had been interested in bringing Moseley back, but the deal — worth as much as $6 million — likely was more than the 49ers were willing to pay for someone who tore an ACL on Oct. 9. Without Moseley, the team likely will continue to lean on Deommodore Lenoir as their starter opposite Ward. Nickel cornerback? Right now, Samuel Womack III is the top option, though the team is looking at bargain veterans who can help fill out that role.
March 14: The 49ers have agreed to a four-year extension with Brendel, who was a question mark when the 2022 season began but who ended up comparing well to his predecessor at the position, Alex Mack. The 49ers already will have a new starter at right tackle after Mike McGlinchey agreed to a big, five-year deal with the Broncos. They didn’t want to have to replace another starter and outlasted several suitors for Brendel’s services. It’s not yet known what his return means for another free-agent offensive lineman, Daniel Brunskill.
The 49ers re-sign Jake Brendel as they aim for needed continuity at center
S Jimmie Ward
March 13: Ward will go back to playing safety … but he’ll do so with the Texans. The NFL Network was first to report that Ward, 31, will join former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans in Houston where he will likely pair with 2022 draft pick Jalen Pitre at the safety position. Ward, who was the longest-tenured 49er, went into the preseason as the team’s celebrated starting safety, then suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the first four games. When he returned, Tashaun Gipson Sr. had taken over his spot and Ward moved to nickel cornerback where he remained the rest of the season. The 49ers are re-signing Gipson on a one-year deal.
Former 49ers DB Jimmie Ward expected to sign with Texans
March 13: An eventful day for the 49ers continues with their acquisition of Darnold, the USC product who’s entering his sixth season in the league. The former first-round pick will be 26 next season. His career has been largely disappointing so far, but Darnold finished the 2022 season with Carolina playing his best football yet. He does feature escapability and arm talent that has intrigued 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan in the past.
The 49ers are in fascinating territory at the quarterback position. Brock Purdy underwent shoulder surgery last week and is expected out for about six months, while Trey Lance is again throwing after a second ankle surgery but is not technically cleared to practice just yet. So Darnold, once he’s fully aboard, will technically be the only fully-cleared QB on the 49ers’ roster. How’s that for a twist?
March 13: Ridgeway, who appeared in 12 games last season before tearing a pectoral muscle, is signing a one-year deal with the Texans worth as much as $4 million, according to ESPN. He’s the first former 49er that new Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans has landed in free agency. The 49ers’ interest in Ridgeway waned after they added Javon Hargrave and Kevin Givens earlier in the day.
March 13: Like many prominent 49ers before him, Garoppolo is now a Raider. The quarterback signed a three-year, $67.5 million deal with Las Vegas that is set to include about $45 million guaranteed, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe.
Garoppolo’s signing for a solid chunk of change elsewhere will help the 49ers in the NFL’s formula for 2024 compensatory draft picks. They’ve maxed out that formula for this upcoming 2023 draft with four picks coming courtesy of player departures last season.
Remembering the top 6 moments of Jimmy Garoppolo’s tenure with the 49ers
DT Kevin Givens
March 13: A few minutes after making the massive Javon Hargrave splash on the defensive interior, the 49ers further fortified that part of their front by re-signing Givens to a one-year deal worth $2.1 million. A full $2 million of that is guaranteed.
Givens, who’s been with the 49ers since 2019, will continue to provide rotational depth for the 49ers up front. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek loves Givens’ quickness. His job, like the job of many other 49ers’ D-linemen, should become easier with Hargrave now also in the mix.
DT Javon Hargrave
March 13: The 49ers agreed to terms with Hargrave on a massive four-year deal worth up to $84 million with $40 million fully guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This means that they’ve notched the top defensive tackle on the market. Hargrave has racked up 22 sacks over the past two seasons with the Eagles.
The 49ers will almost certainly have to restructure at least one existing contract to make room for Hargrave’s deal, which cannot become official until the new league year starts on Wednesday.
49ers add Javon Hargrave as NFL’s top defense gets even better
RT Mike McGlinchey
March 13: Last month, 49ers general manager John Lynch predicted that the 49ers would not be able to re-sign their starting right tackle unless he missed his market. Well, McGlinchey did not miss his market. The Broncos signed McGlinchey to a huge five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million with over $50 million guaranteed, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
That comes out to over $17 million annually for McGlinchey, a price that’s clearly out of the 49ers’ price range — especially given the money they’ve shelled out to defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Recently re-signed tackle Colton McKivitz, who inked for $5.8 million on a two-year deal last week, remains the frontrunner to succeed McGlinchey at right tackle. The 49ers can also add to the position through the draft.
T Mike McGlinchey, G Ben Powers agree to terms with Broncos
S Tashaun Gipson Sr.
March 12: The 49ers agreed to terms with Gipson on a one-year, $2.9 million deal, according to a team source. Gipson proved to be an excellent complement to youngster Talanoa Hufanga after he was signed in late August following Jimmie Ward’s hamstring injury. Gipson, 32, played so well, in fact, that the 49ers moved Ward to nickel cornerback when he returned to the lineup. With Gipson and Hufanga under contract, the 49ers seem set at safety and likely would want Ward, an impending free agent, back if he agrees to play nickel again this season.
With the top-paid safeties on the market primed to soon hit contracts worth $20 million annually (the Chargers’ Derwin James Jr. leads the way at $19 million APY), re-signing Gipson for less than $3 million represents tremendous potential value for the 49ers. He ranked No. 1 in missed tackle rate (2.9 percent) and No. 2 in passer rating allowed (53.0) of all NFL safeties last season. The discount comes because Gipson will be 33 next season, so the 49ers are betting that the fountain of youth he discovered this season will continue flowing into 2023. After struggling to notch interceptions for years, the 49ers led the league with 20 picks in 2022 and Gipson paced the team with five of them.
Colton McKivitz is back, and the 49ers have more O-line work to do in free agency
OL Colton McKivitz
March 9: The team signed McKivitz to a two-year deal worth $5.8 million, according to his agent. With Mike McGlinchey likely moving on in free agency, McKivitz becomes the frontrunner to start at right tackle in 2023 unless the team signs a more prominent tackle in the coming days. McKivitz, 26, was a fifth-round pick in 2020. He’s appeared in 28 games over the last three seasons with five starts — two at left tackle and three at right guard.
The 49ers avoided the restricted free-agent negotiation process with McKivitz by agreeing to terms with him before free agency, saving the team some valuable salary-cap space. The 49ers are set to open Monday’s legal tampering period with about $3 million in cap space, but the top-51 rule should help preserve room as they conduct business. The 49ers can also execute a number of contract restructures to free up spending money.
(Photo of Javon Hargrave: John Jones / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)