With recent news that the NFL and NFLPA are prepared for a $121 million cap in 2013, I want to shed some light on the affects that this has on the 49ers, and what we can expect.
As of this publication, the 49ers have 46 players signed for the 2013 season, and have committed salaries at approximately $121,530,236. They also have the option of using a carryover of around $1.5 million, plus $1.643 million credit from uncapped year violations by the Cowboys and Redskins. That would put the 49ers under right now by approximately $2,613,197.
There has been plenty of discussion about whether the 49ers should franchise Dashon Goldson, or if they should try and sign him to an extension as soon as possible. It is worth noting that the 49ers could not extend Goldson during the season. I am not sure yet if they can sign him now that the regular season is done, or if they have to wait for the wrap of the Super Bowl or the start of the league year in March. I'll look for more on that.
For the sake of argument, if the 49ers elect to franchise Goldson for a second consecutive year, they would owe him a 120% increase on his 2012 salary. With a $6.212 million salary this year, that means he would be at around $7,454,400 for 2013.
The 49ers have a bigger issue, however, and that is getting under the cap far enough to even franchise Goldson. They have some options, with the most prominent involving contract extensions for veterans Justin Smith and Donte Whitner. Contract extensions help create cap room because they often involve smaller base salaries in the signed year, with a signing bonus that can then be pro-rated over the life of the contract for cap accounting.
The team can also expect a $2.5 million credit from Ahmad Brooks' contract. He didn't reach the escalators to either void the de-escalators, or raise his salary for 2013. This creates some extra cap room in the 49ers pockets to get deals done.
The 49ers will have decisions to make on several players. Alex Smith can be traded, but they need to push the $1 million roster bonus back, if they want to save his entire base salary. If they can, then it makes sense to make a deal. Parys Haralson is due $2.87 million, all of which is non-guaranteed, so it could be savings in the 49ers pockets to use. David Akers is due a $3,616,667 salary, and they can save $3.05 million by releasing him, with only $566,667 in dead money. The same can be said for Jonathan Goodwin, who is due a $5,016,667 salary, and can save $4.35 million, with just a $666,667 in dead money.
If the 49ers release/trade Smith, Haralson, Akers and Goodwin, it would give the 49ers an extra $19.02 million in cap room, plus the $2.5 million credit from Brooks' deal, plus whatever they can save from restructuring and extending the contracts of Justin Smith and Whitner.
One player who has some question marks about his long term future with the 49ers is cornerback Carlos Rogers. I wouldn't expect the 49ers to release Rogers, as he is due $1.7 million guaranteed from his $5.5 million base salary in 2013, plus he has the date where if on roster on April 1, 2013, his base salary becomes guaranteed. That makes it tough to justify releasing him to save minimal cap room. They can't spread the dead money over 2 seasons because the guarantee date is before June 1, 2013.
As for free agency, the 49ers have several key contributors as free agents, including Randy Moss, Ted Ginn Jr., Delanie Walker, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ricky Jean Francois. They also have special teams contributors set as free agents, including, Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden. I wouldn't expect Leonard Davis and Clark Haggans back, as the 49ers could give young guys like Joe Looney and Cam Johnson an opportunity to make an impact after a full season of learning the NFL game.
I expect the 49ers to bring back either Sopoaga or Jean Francois, and possibly both if they can get down far enough under the cap. Also they have to decide on whether to pay Walker like a second tight end, or use one of their potential 13 draft picks on a No. 2 TE. The issue with Moss is whether he will want to play another season, and if so, will the 49ers bring him back. If he is interested in playing another season, it makes sense to bring back Moss on a one year deal. Finally, the 49ers need to extend Goldson, so he doesn't have the $7.454+ million salary for 2013. They can't afford that, so they need to cut it down for 2013 and 2014, and then load it up in 2015 and 2016 when they have more cap room.
It's clear that the 49ers have some issues that need to resolved for 2013, but most NFL team have similar issues, and some are worse off, being between $10-20 million over the cap. I am confident that Trent Baalke and Paraag Marathe will get the 49ers in the right direction.
In the meantime, don't forget to check out our rundown of the 49ers salary cap situation through 2018. We keep it updated regularly, so feel free to bookmark that page. We also have a salary cap hub page with all our cap content.