The 49ers keep saying they will tread lightly in free agency this year. But a look at their roster once free agency begins shows several positions that need attention. In fact, the 49ers seem set -- numbers wise, at least -- only at center, cornerback and defensive end.
49ers roster as of 9:01 p.m.
Quarterbacks: Shaun Hill, Alex Smith. The team will add at least one QB to the mix in free agency or the draft.
Running back: Frank Gore, Michael Robinson, Thomas Clayton, Zak Keasey. Look for the 49ers to add a fullback in free agency and a running back in the draft. Keasey is on the bubble.
Receiver: Arnaz Battle, Mark Bradford, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Josh Morgan, Maurice Price, Michael Spurlock and Dominique Zeigler. The numbers here are deceiving. Bruce's return is 50/50, meaning the 49ers have only one receiver - Battle - with meaningful playing experience. It's hard to see the team not adding at least one wideout in free agency. Spurlock is a special teamer who was signed in case Allen Rossum, a FA, doesn't return.
Tight end: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, JJ Finley. Look for the 49ers to draft a tight end late in the draft a la Billy Bajema in 2005.
Center: Eric Heitmann, Cody Wallace. The team does not need another center. In addition, David Baas and Tony Wragge could play the position in a pinch.
Guard: David Baas, Chilo Rachal, Tony Wragge. The numbers here are thin, and both Baas and Wragge become free agents in 2010. Look for one - or both - to be offered extensions. An inexpensive free agent likely will be added for practice depth.
Tackle: Joe Staley, Jonas Jennings, Adam Snyder, Barry Sims, Jacob Bender, Joe Toledo. The only dependable long-term option from this group is Staley. Jennings will be cut; Snyder and Sims are good back-ups, not starters. The team needs to add a starting right tackle in free agency or the draft.
Defensive end: Justin Smith, Kentwan Balmer, Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga. The 49ers appear to be content with this group.
Nose tackle: Aubrayo Franklin. Sopoaga could fill in, but several good nose tackles are expected to be available in free agency.
OLB: Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson, Jay Moore, Ahmad Brooks. Only one of these players - Haralson - doesn't have a question mark next to him. The 49ers are expecting Lawson to regain the explosion he had before tearing an ACL in 2007, but that's not a given. Brooks teems with talent but can't be counted on yet. Moore will have a tough time making the squad. The 49ers must add depth at the position.
ILB: Patrick Willis, Jeff Ulbrich, Justin Roland. The 49ers are expected to re-sign Takeo Spikes. Still, a young "Ted" prospect is a must. Roland, an undrafted FA out of Kansas State in 2008, will get a shot.
Cornerback: Walt Harris, Nate Clements, Tarell Brown, Shawntae Spencer, Reggie Smith, Marcus Hudson. The 49ers have good depth here but didn't get much help from Smith, a third-round pick, last year. Someone must step forward to fill Donald Strickland's considerable role. Hudson could be moved to free safety.
Free safety: Mark Roman, Dashon Goldson, Jimmy Williams. Lots of question marks with this group. Unfortunately, both free agency and the draft are bare at the position.
Strong safety: Michael Lewis. Without Keith Lewis (he has a deal with Arizona) the 49ers are thin here. Both Goldson and Williams could fill in in a pinch.
-- Matt Barrows