On Tuesday Fooch posted an article that gave you a little bit of a breakdown of the impending collective bargaining agreement; you can read that here.
This morning I decided to delve into the salary cap question and what it means to certain teams heading into what promises to be a frantic free agency period once the CBA is signed. Of course there are going to be winners and losers with the new salary cap structure.
After the jump, I am going to go into detail in regards to the losers that may come out of the new salary cap structure. Additionally, I will focus on where out 49ers stand.
The NFL has had a "hard cap" for some time now. We as 49er fans know all to well what this means. Following the 49ers success of the late 1990s, there was a period where they were in salary cap pergutory. This meant that the 49ers really couldn't spend any money on free agency because of a wide host of issues, included but not limited to bad free agent signings. Antonio Langham anyone?
In 2009, the final capped year for the NFL there was a ceiling of 128 million per team and a floor 87 percent of that, 112.1 million. Because the owners decided to opt out of the CBA there was no salary cap in 2010.
Under the new salary cap teams would be required to spend 90-93 percent of the salary cap, no less. While three percent doesn't seem like a lot; it really could be a factor in where some free agents end up. Additionally, you are going to see fewer large signing bonus and large annual salaries to make up for this discrepancy. Teams are going to be more reluctant than ever to dole out large sums of money that may be back loaded; affecting their ability to maneuver years down the road.
There is also some questions are they relate to long term contracts and the way they are formed. For example, just because a player signed a 5 year contract worth over 60 million dollars it doesn't mean that they entirety of the contract will be spread out evenly.
Miles Austin's contract is such an example (although specifically designed for the uncapped 2010 year, not for the new rules): His 2010 salary was an incredible $17.1 million, which drops to $8.54 million in 2011 and further drops to an incredibly low $1.15 million in 2012 before going up again. While the first year salary can be considered a signing bonus, for salary cap purposes it was not, and Austin's contract will be very salary cap friendly in the coming years for the Cowboys.
Now some house cleaning issues as they relate to a possible 2011 NFL salary cap
1. You are looking at a 2011 salary cap of about 120 million dollars in the NFL. Under the new guidelines the salary cap floor (minimum a team can spend on their roster) could be anywhere between 2 to 6 million dollars less than that.
2. Although not related to the salary cap, lowering the minimum NFL service time to three years for restricted free agency and four years for unrestricted free agency would have a long term impact on the cap itself. Currently, there are a few teams that are right at the cap threshold, these teams would find it difficult to not only sign free agents, but to retain their own free agents.
Teams Hurt Most By New Salary Cap Structure
The Cowboys payroll stands at about 136.6 million dollars, which is roughly 17 million over the cap. This means that they are going to have to shed some salaries to get under the cap. It also means that certain impact players are going to hit the market from Dallas. Additionally, even if a rookie wage scale is put into place Dallas is going to have to shed some more salaries to get under the 120 million dollar cap.
This isn't good news for Dallas Cowboy fans. They will be hard presses to come up with the 40-50 million needed to retain Doug Free. Additionally, they are going to have to make some tough decisions in which veterans to retain. The list I provided above consist of the players I believe will get their walking papers from Dallas once a new CBA is signed and free agency begins.
Currently 8.5 million under the cap and they have a lot of players whose contracts expired following the 2010 season. Now only if New York going to have to limit the players they re-sign, they are going to have to cut a couple players to get under the cap. With Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards hitting free agency, the Jets are going to turn their attention to re-upping one of those two players. This means that they are going to have to shave even more money off of their payroll.
There is a lot of talent here and most of these players will not be with the Jets in 2011. I could easily see them retaining Santonio Holmes and David Harris, while letting everyone else walk. A couple of players, Antonio Cromartie and Braylon Edwards could be on the 49ers radar.
Dead money could be an issue because Oakland has about 18 million dollars of that. It remains to be seen what they new collective bargaining agreement would do with dead money, but it is safe to say that it will be included. If it is, the Raiders will be about 15 million dollars over the cap. This would pretty much guarantee that they would be unable to retain that corner, you know who he is!!
I know that it is hard to believe that I have Heyward-Bey on this list but it makes perfect sense. He is due about 8.5 million dollars in 2011 if you take into account signing bonus and annual contract. With 23 million guaranteed and 16 million of that already spent, the Raiders may be inclined to cut their losses with him. I doubt that will happen, but it still remains a real possibility. Anyone that expects Asomugha to re-sign with the Raiders are kidding themselves. Logistically, they don't have the cap space or available money to spend 10-15 million per year on him. Additionally, I highly doubt that they will have the money to re-sign Michael Bush. They are going to take a huge hit once free agency starts.
In fact, I could see a scenario where the Raiders lose their best offensive linemen (Gallery), receiver (Miller), and defensive player (Asomugha).
Where our San Francisco 49ers stand?
The 49ers will be anywhere between 20 and 26 million dollars under the cap when free agency starts. A lot of that depends on how bonuses have been structured and what happens with the dead money situation; which the 49ers really don't have much of.
Additionally, you are looking at Nate Clements set to count about 8 million against that cap, you can expect the 49ers to free up a nice chunk of change there. So, I expect San Francisco to be about 30 million under the cap once the dust settles.
Of course, San Francisco has a lot of free agents they have to look at retaining as well. Basis intuition and math gives me these following scenarios in regards to the 49ers current crop of possible free agents
Alex Smith, David Baas, Ray McDonald and Takeo Spikes would add up to about 12 million dollars in 2011 salaries. The 49ers could be extremely smart and look to back load some of the longer term deals as well. Their salary cap situation becomes a lot more sunny in the years to come, so they would be able to back load some of the contracts and give larger signing bonuses. I know this goes against the grain of what some teams are planning to do in 2011, but it could work extremely well in 2011 for San Francisco.
This scenario would leave the 49ers with a minimum of 18 million dollars to spend. Now, if they plan on re-signing Franklin and Lawson; that figure would take a large dip.
You also have to look at the fact that following players will not be on San Francisco under their current contracts in 2011.
Moran Norris: 1.8 million
David Carr: 3.4 million
Eric Heitmann: 2.5 million
Joe Nedney: 2.3 million
Releasing all these players would save San Francisco 10 million dollars as well. So, I do expect San Francisco to be players in the free agent market. It seems that they would have the money to sign a couple top tier free agents and fill some holes with veterans here and there. Considering where the 49ers have been in the past, they are in a great situation once free agency starts.