49ers salary cap: Looking ahead to future seasons and free agents

USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers have consistently re-signed young talent. As the salary cap tightens up, how will the 49ers work around it?

Yesterday afternoon, the 49ers cleaned up their cap space for 2013 when they inked Justin Smith to a two-year contract extension. The contract extension locks up Smith for what should be the rest of his career, and gives the 49ers significant cap relief this year, clearing out a little over $4.27 million in cap space. The 49ers had enough room to sign Eric Reid, but with the potential for carrying injured players into the season, a little extra space was going to be welcome.

The 49ers now have $6,423,720 in cap space heading into the 2013 season. Aside from signing Eric Reid to his rookie contract, the 49ers have several options for the money. The first thing people tweeted me was an expectation the 49ers would sign a wide receiver with some of this space. The short answer to that is no. The 49ers could bring in another receiver, but clearing out sizable cap room was not for that.

The second thing would be extending current players. The 49ers have numerous free agents after the 2013 season, as well as contracts available for renegotiation. The most prominent player on this list is Mike Iupati. I think Iupati is the guy that gets the next extension, but it could depend on how much the 49ers value guards. I realize Iupati is more than just "any guard", but it is something still to consider.

The third option would be holding on to the space and rolling it over into next season. The 49ers have players they cannot yet extend because of the new CBA rule requiring a draft pick play three seasons before the rookie deal can be renegotiated. This list is extensive, including Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, Daniel Kilgore, Kendall Hunter and Chris Culliver, among others. Rolling over cap space could potentially help in that regard.

The 49ers recent run of extensions has locked in more players for future years. While the team has done a good job securing a lot of their young talent, the job does not get any easier in coming years.

In case you missed our announcement of it late last season, Jason Hurley of Niner Cap Hell has been providing his tables breaking down the 49ers salary cap situations in coming seasons. I've created pages for them, and I wanted to focus in on 2013, 2014 and 2015.

In 2013, the NFLPA lists the 49ers with $6,423,720 in cap space, while Jason has it at $6,516,044. Either way, it's close on. For 2014, Jason has the 49ers with $5,812,618, and for 2015 Jason has the 49ers with $28,686,398 in cap space. Head over to the three links above to see the players signed through each season.

The 49ers have a lot of work to do on the cap front as they look ahead. There is the chance television deals will boost their cap space down the road, but you can't plan cap strategy on something that isn't guaranteed like television deals.

Below is a list of free agents for the next two years (2014 means after 2013 season). We can see areas where the 49ers will be able to go younger, but there remains a significant need to clean things up. That's where this $6.5 million comes into play. I strongly believe the 49ers will end up using it to extend Mike Iupati, and try and frontload a deal if possible.

Beyond that, most of the free agent class coming up next offseason have enough question marks that the team might hold off doing anything significant. Tarell Brown is probably the "best" of that group, and the 49ers haven't exactly loaded up on additional young cornerback talent. Maybe he gets a new deal before Iupati?

2014 Free Agents
QB Colt McCoy
QB Scott Tolzien (RFA)
RB Anthony Dixon
FB/DE Will Tukuafu (RFA)
WR Kyle Williams
WR Mario Manningham
WR Chad Hall (RFA)
WR Anquan Boldin
WR Marlon Moore
WR Kassim Osgood
TE/DE Demarcus Dobbs (RFA)
C Jonathan Goodwin
OLB Parys Haralson
OLB Cam Johnson (EFA)
ILB Michael Wilhoite (EFA)
CB Tarell Brown
CB Perrish Cox (RFA)
CB Nnamdi Asomugha
CB Tramaine Brock
SS Donte Whitner
SS Darcel McBath
PK Phil Dawson

2015 Free Agents
QB Colin Kaepernick
RB Frank Gore
RB Kendall Hunter
RB Jewel Hampton (RFA)
FB Bruce Miller
WR Michael Crabtree
WR Ricardo Lockette (RFA)
TE Garrett Celek (RFA)
C Daniel Kilgore
OG Mike Iupati
OL Kenny Wiggins (EFA)
OG Al Netter (EFA)
OG Wayne Tribue (EFA)
DE Tony Jerod-Eddie (EFA)
NT/DE Glenn Dorsey
NT Lamar Divens
OLB Aldon Smith
OLB Nate Stupar (EFA)
ILB Dan Skuta
CB Chris Culliver
FS C.J. Spillman
FS Michael Thomas (EFA)
FS Raymond Ventrone
LS Brian Jennings

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