Detroit has 20. So does Cincinnati and the New York Giants. The Rams have 21. All told, 479 players are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins March 13.
Some of these players are likely to sign new deals with their current teams before March 13. Most will not. They will get to free agency and let the market determine their worth. Last year, in what was a lockout-abbreviated free agency period, the 49ers took a wait-and-see approach to free agency. With so many free agents on the market and little time to sign them, the 49ers bet that there would be bargains after the initial wave of free agency passed.
For the most part, they were right. Safety Dashon Goldson failed to get the big-money deal he was seeking and signed a one-year contract with San Francisco. Cornerback Carlos Rogers also signed for what turned out to be a bargain-basement one-year deal for $4.25 million. The 49ers decided not to outbid the Giants for center David Baas' services, and they ended up getting Jonathan Goodwin instead. Baas signed a five-year deal for $27.5 million; Goodwin's deal is three years for $10.9 million.
The one maneuver that failed was wide receiver. The 49ers signed Braylon Edwards for what seemed like a pittance -- $1 million in base salary -- at the time. Edwards, however, was cut late in the season without ever scoring a touchdown, and the 49ers must sign multiple players at that position this offseason. (More on that below).