Free agency for the NFL will happen in March and the 49ers will hope to retain a handful of players who are on the market. However, it doesn't appear the franchise tag will be a choice with the team having an estimated $7 million in cap space, according to a league source.
Even with players being cap casualties, the 49ers have invested in players including NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Anthony Davis in the long-term.
There are only three free agents to be who would be worthy of the franchise tag for the 49ers. The first is Anquan Boldin, who had a tremendous year in 2013. The franchise tag would give a top-5 NFL salary at the player's position. In the case of the WR position, it would cost at least $10 million which is unreasonable for the 49ers to pay.
Donte Whitner is also a free agent who was paid $11.75 million through the last three years with the 49ers. Buffalo Bills S Jairus Byrd made almost $7 million last season with the franchise tag and that price will increase. Like Boldin, Whitner would be too expensive to commit more than $7 million towards the cap.
Lastly, there is K Phil Dawson, who was previously franchise tagged by the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and 2012. The 49ers paid $2.3 million for the veteran kicker and he didn't disappoint. If Dawson was franchise tagged, he would be making more than $3 million next season. However, it would be much higher because the kicker would be tagged for the third time in his career, thus triggering in an expensive increase set by Drew Brees in 2012.
The first day of free agency is on March 11 and the teams have exclusive negotiating rights with all free agents to be until that time. February 17 is the first day that teams can use the franchise tag, but don't expect the 49ers to be one of them. The last time the 49ers used the franchise tag was in 2012 on S Dashon Goldson.