As more and more news comes out indicating the lockout is close to finished, free agency will begin to pick up. The end of the lockout will mean educating team executives, players and agents on the new rules. For example, this year will feature a one-time only $3 million exception to the cap in what was possibly a concession by the players in exchange for the owners removing the right of first refusal from the table.
According to Andrew Brandt, the cap will likely be $120 million this season, plus the one-time exception on top. One of the important things players got in return for a decrease in the revenue split was an increase in the guaranteed cash spending on the cap. We all know how easily it is to manipulate the cap numbers and this guarantee of 99% spending on the cap means we're looking at teams being required to spend close to $119 million this year.
For the purposes of free agency and contracts though, teams have all season to reach the required cash number. We've heard about teams being far below the cap and needing to spend a ton of money to reach the floor. However, that can be done through contract extensions throughout the season, and not just during free agency.
If you're the San Francisco 49ers and you're at somewhere around $102 million in contract value for 2011. That includes Nate Clements current contract, which is expected to be renegotiated down. Clements contract cap value is at approximately $17 million, which includes a number of likely-to-be-earned incentives and bonuses. Accordingly, you're likely looking at more than $20 million in space depending on the final Clements number.
With the number of in-house free agents and draft picks to sign, how aggressive do you see the 49ers in free agency this year? Throw in the lockout-induced question marks about how behind the team will be with a new coaching staff and is it possible the team will play it fairly conservative for this season? Or will the much-needed preparation not make any difference?