Thursday afternoon, NFL Network's Albert Breer reported the NFL was projecting a 2014 salary cap of $126.3 million. There is a subsequent report that it could be up closer to $128 million. Either way, the final number will be more specific than that once final revenues are determined for the new league year. In the meantime, this gives us a jumping off point for some salary cap discussion.
The 49ers made three roster moves recently, moving Tank Carradine to injured reserve, signing guard Ryan Seymour to the 53-man roster, and signing wide receiver Devon Wylie to the practice squad. With these roster moves, the 49ers are now $2.653 million under the 2013 salary cap.
If the 2014 cap ends up at the $126.3 million figure, the 49ers would be $7.056 million under. The 49ers would then be able to roll over their current $2.653 million in cap space, which would place them $9.709 million under the cap.
The 49ers have numerous roster moves to consider, both in terms of impending free agents, and current contracts that can and will be restructured. Carlos Rogers is the most notable contract to potentially be restructured, but the team could approach a host of veterans to free up cap space. Considering the team has a variety of young players coming due for new deals, every penny will count.
Rogers is the guy that first comes to mind given his contract. If the 49ers released him prior to June 1, 2014, they would save $5.1 million in cap space. If they designated him a June 1 cut, they would save $6.6 million in cap space. The extra $1.494 million could prove valuable, but it also would not be available until after June 1. The 49ers have guys like Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, Phil Dawson, Donte Whitner and Tarell Brown all free agents in March, so the slightly smaller amount could prove more necessary sooner.
The 49ers have several targets for potential contract restructuring. Among others, Vernon Davis, Ray McDonald, Frank Gore, and Patrick Willis all could re-work their deals. The team could sign them to contract extensions, or figure out ways to convert base salary to signing bonus money. That would allow the team to pro-rate the same amount over the life of the contract, rather than in the one year.
We discussed Carlos Rogers as a potential cut. Another potential cut would be safety Craig Dahl. Such a move would save $1,416,666 if cut before June 1, 2014, or $1.65 million if cut after June 1, 2014. Wide receiver Jon Baldwin is a candidate to be cut as well. The 49ers would save $1,377,765 if he is cut after 2013. Baldwin has a $130,000 workout bonus, so he needs to be cut before the offseason workout program gets going. A final cut option would be Adam Snyder. He has one year year left, so he can be cut at any time and save the $1.05 million.
The team is also looking at some escalators and de-escalators that can impact 2014 contracts. The most notable belongs to linebacker Ahmad Brooks. He took a cut to his base salary last year when he did not meet certain incentives. This year, he appears to have a $500,000 escalator if he reaches 12 sacks. He currently has a career-high 8.5 sacks with three games left. 3.5 more sacks is not entirely out of the realm of the possible over the next three games. There is also a salary de-escalator that appears to be around $1.6 million.
Andy Lee has a $25,000 incentive, which he can earn if he earns All-NFL/All-Pro honors. He earned it last year, which added an additional $25,000 to his 2013 cap number.
The 49ers 2011 rookies are part of the first class to deal with the rookie salary scale. It limited their opportunities for bigger rookie contracts, and also prevents them from negotiating a contract extension until after their third season. This covers guys like Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Chris Culliver, Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter and Daniel Kilgore.
For the rookies draft in rounds three through seven, there is a chance for boosts through the "proven performance escalator." This is based on playing time in a given year, or averaged out over the three years of the rookie deal. We'll break those down separately in the near future, but it allows for a players fourth-year base salary to increase to restricted free agent tender. Once we know final snap counts for 2013, we'll break this down further.
There are some other miscellaneous potential salary adjustments. For example, Anthony Davis has a weight clause, so he'll need to maintain weight heading into next season. We'll have plenty more in the coming months, but that should give you a basic idea of how things stand as the season moves along.