Packers vs. 49ers: Here are the 10 best 2020 free agents to watch in the NFC Championship game
San Francisco could lose a lot of key pieces this offseason
Championship weekend has finally arrived in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers lace up their cleats for potentially the last time this season, but the survivor will book its ticket to the Super Bowl. Green Bay is scheduled to have a few veteran players hit free agency this offseason, while San Francisco will have to handle contracts for some of its key contributors.
CBS Sports examines the 2020 free agents to be ahead of this Sunday's game.
1. Arik Armstead, 49ers
Not long ago, many questioned whether Armstead was a bust. The former No. 17 overall selection recorded 10 sacks this season, which was more than his previous four seasons combined. How much of his play should be attributed to the wrecking balls (Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner) around him? The 26-year-old will find a market for his services if he reaches that point. Only 14 players finished with more sacks than Armstead this season.
2. Jimmie Ward, 49ers
Coming into the season, the secondary was a perceived weakness of the 49ers. That perception was wrong. The group has played really good football, even with Ward missing three games. The former No. 30 overall selection has played a full 16-game season just once in his six years; that will hurt his free-agent stock. The 28-year-old has not recorded an interception since the 2016 campaign.
3. Emmanuel Sanders, 49ers
Sanders was acquired from the Denver Broncos during the season. The soon to be 33-year-old went hot and cold throughout the year, just as likely to top 100 receiving yards in a game as he was to get 50 or less. Sanders has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in just three of his 10 seasons. San Francisco needs to improve its wide receiver room before next season, which could lead to the veteran's return.
4. Blake Martinez, Packers
Martinez is a smart, high-volume tackler. In each of the past three seasons, he has finished among the NFL's top three tacklers. The 26-year-old elevated his play even more this season. He recorded 155 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Last spring, Green Bay devoted significant resources to improving its pass rush. It paid big dividends. Will the Packers retain a big piece up the middle next?
5. Bryan Bulaga, Packers
The Packers have had consistency along the offensive line for several years. Bulaga has been a solid player ever since he entered the league as the No. 23 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. The 30-year-old has battled through injuries most of his career, including this season, but someone will have confidence bringing him in to play a position of need for many teams.
6. Mason Crosby, Packers
Crosby entered the league as a can't-miss kicker prospect nearly 13 years ago. The 35-year-old is the model of consistency, having not missed a game along the way. He has converted 98% of his career field goal attempts from less than 30 yards during the regular season. Age has not slowed him down. In 2019, Crosby converted 22 of 24 field goal attempts, including all 14 attempts within 40 yards. It is hard to argue with the Colorado product's consistency.
7. Ronald Blair III, 49ers
Blair was balling out before an injury that cost him seven games during the regular season. The 26-year-old has recorded at least two sacks in each of his four seasons with a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2018. He can certainly start for some teams across the league and could otherwise provide some productive depth. San Francisco would like to see him return.
8. Ben Garland, 49ers
Garland has played for three teams over the course of 10 seasons since going undrafted in 2010. The 31-year-old is a graduate of Air Force and received the Salute to Service Award in 2018. In last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings, Garland was rock solid up the middle. He did not allow a single pressure. The Colorado native actually played along the defensive line in college before making the switch as a professional.
9. Geronimo Allison, Packers
Allison is never going to pop off the stat sheet, but that is not always necessary in order to make an impact. He can provide solid depth, whether that is in Green Bay or elsewhere next season. The 25-year-old finished the regular season with 34 receptions for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
10. Sheldon Day, 49ers
Day has been able to step in and fill a starter's role at times this season. The 25-year-old is never going to lead the team in sacks but he is a stout body along the interior defensive line. He has recorded six sacks total in five NFL seasons. The Notre Dame product was a fourth round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016.
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