Jimmy Garoppolo headlines 49ers' list of upcoming free agents

The only mystery around Jimmy Garoppolo is whether he'll sign a long-term contract or play 2018 under the franchise tag. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have 19 players due to become unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins in March. From that list, there's one player -- quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo -- who takes precedence over all of the others. In fact, it's not certain that any of the others will be retained as coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch work to bolster the roster around Garoppolo.

Here's an early look at the Niners' upcoming free agents and an early line on the potential for each to return.

C Tim Barnes: The Niners brought Barnes back following some injuries on the offensive line after he narrowly missed a roster spot out of training camp. They could theoretically bring him back to compete again but chances are they'll be looking for some fresh faces to compete at center.

DE Tank Carradine: Carradine finally settled into a position that fit his skill set and played well despite spending some of the season on injured reserve. Carradine would be a nice piece to keep around for depth at "big" end unless he draws interest as a surefire starter elsewhere.

LB Brock Coyle: Coyle became a starter after an injury to Malcolm Smith and the Niners' decision to release NaVorro Bowman. He got better as the season went along but is still better suited as a backup and key special-teams player. The Niners would like to bring him back, but that will depend on what opportunities he has elsewhere.

DL Leger Douzable: Douzable offered a steady presence when injuries ravaged the defensive line but was inactive for most of the final month. He had a couple of sacks and could come in to compete for a role again, but it's more likely the Niners will keep him on the emergency-addition list while moving forward with other, younger talent.

S Antone Exum Jr.: Exum got a little bit of work after injuries struck in the secondary. If he's brought back, it will be as camp competition.

G Brandon Fusco: Fusco was a late addition who earned a starting job and was pretty dependable from week to week. Still, bolstering the interior of the offensive line will be a priority this offseason. Fusco could return to compete but he'd likely find a more difficult road to a starting job this time.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo: The only mystery here is whether Garoppolo will sign a lucrative long-term contract or play 2018 under the franchise tag. Both sides seem to want to come to terms on a big contract, so it's likely to be just a matter of time. Lynch has said he wants Garoppolo to be a Niner for a "long, long time." They'll do what they must to make that a reality.

T Garry Gilliam: A knee injury ruined Gilliam's season, and though he offers some versatility and depth, the Niners probably will look to do better at the swing tackle spot.

DB Leon Hall: The veteran ended up playing nine games and his positional versatility proved valuable, but with the 49ers set on improving the secondary, it seems unlikely Hall would be back unless more injuries strike.

RB Carlos Hyde: Perhaps the most interesting free-agent case the Niners have, Hyde was up and down in 2017. He has made it clear he'd like to stay with the 49ers, but that's no sure thing. Hyde's inconsistency in the passing game could leave the Niners to look for a more complete option to go with rookies Matt Breida and Joe Williams. San Francisco could also look to add someone to the mix in the draft.

CB Asa Jackson: A young corner who earned a roster spot in the preseason, Jackson could return on the cheap and get a chance to compete, though the Niners might be more inclined to sort through some new options.

CB Dontae Johnson: Given a chance to hold a starting job for an entire season, Johnson struggled for large chunks of the season. Penalties and coverage woes make it unlikely Johnson returns as the Niners seek another starting-caliber corner to line up opposite Ahkello Witherspoon.

DL Chris Jones: Jones spent the year on injured reserve. There's no obvious role for him to fill here.

C Daniel Kilgore: Kilgore is a solid, dependable veteran, and he finally made it through the season completely healthy. He's also developed a strong relationship with Garoppolo. The Niners will probably look at other options that could be an upgrade, but if there's not an obvious upgrade to be found, Kilgore's return would be an option.

DE Aaron Lynch: It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Lynch is back after he got multiple opportunities to prove he can stay healthy, in shape and provide a pass rush from the edge. The Niners need to improve there and it's a good bet that Lynch will move on.

DE Cassius Marsh: Marsh arrived off waivers late in the season and got plenty of chances to prove his value. He didn't exactly light the world on fire but had enough good moments that he could be brought back cheap to compete for a situational pass-rusher role.

WR Louis Murphy: Murphy got some work at the end of the season but would seem to be the odd man out for 2018, especially if the Niners add another wideout in the draft or free agency.

TE Logan Paulsen: Paulsen bounced on and off the roster multiple times. He was a solid veteran presence but it would seem his chances for a return will depend on if the Niners add at the position first.

S Eric Reid: Reid has already said he knows his free-agent experience could be bumpy in light of his protests. His situation with the Niners is complicated as Reid played well over the final part of the season but was also moved to linebacker at one point to make way for others at safety. San Francisco seems intent on making Jaquiski Tartt the starting strong safety with Jimmie Ward and Adrian Colbert battling at free safety. Reid could still return at the right price but it seems certain he'll get to test the market first.