Earlier today, I posted about how the structure of Ahmad Brooks' contract and its impact on the 2012 salary cap had me thinking about the possibility of a big splash by the 49ers in free agency. The last couple years keep me from getting too excited about the possibility, but the way the 49ers structured Brooks' contract leaves me curious about their plans with the cap space they are saving.
Great to resign your own players. So happy for Ahmad! Hopefully a few more guys that want to stay #49ers. Let's keep getting better— Jed York (@JedYork) February 29, 2012
Scenario II: The NaVorro Bowman Special
After the 49ers re-signed Ahmad Brooks, team CEO Jed York tweeted about how great it was to re-sign the team's own players and hopefully a few more guys would want to stay 49ers moving forward. Whether you want to read anything into that tweet or not, the 49ers have shown a precedent of extending their young players as they earn it.
That could mean a whole host of things. Given the strength of the 2011 defense, maybe it means doing what it takes to re-sign Carlos Rogers and keep the band together for another run. The 49ers defense was fairly filthy last year and that was without a full offseason of tutelage by the defensive staff. Imagine a full year working together? Kind of ridiculous to consider.
Or, given the strength of the front seven, maybe it means extending NaVorro Bowman? The 49ers young linebacker exploded on the scene in 2011 with an All-Pro season that was simply ridiculous. Plenty thought he would be an able replacement for Takeo Spikes, but I don't know many who saw this coming. Bowman is slated to make $490,000 in 2012 and $575,000 (not 100% sure on those figures, but it's close) in 2013. The team talks about taking care of their own, so why not use 2012 cap space to front load a long term extension for Bowman?
The more I think about it, the more I am talking myself into a Bowman extension. The team used big cap space in 2012 to re-work Patrick Willis' deal. If they have a sizable amount of cap space after figuring out deals for Alex Smith and others, they could very well use that space to take care of a guy like Bowman. Rather than a big signing bonus in year one that prorates and eventually gets sped up if the team were to release Bowman, the team could provide a sizable first year base salary and a more modest signing bonus. I have no reason to think this is what is happening, but it makes a certain amount of sense in my mind.
I have no real idea what the 49ers have in mind with their cap space. It is worth noting that the 89% minimum spend requirement does not go into effect until 2013. So, the 49ers could very well add some second tier free agents, re-sign Alex Smith, Blake Costanzo and a few others and be done with it. I'd always like a little bit more, and I would count a big extension for NaVorro Bowman as a bit of a "big splash" in its own right. We'll just have to wait and see how the next two or three weeks shake out.