This past Thursday, shortly before the 49ers preseason opener against the Broncos, the team signed CB Eric Wright to a one year deal. A couple days later, we got the salary amount. Wright's deal is for $715,001. In case you are wondering, that is $1 over the veteran minimum for a player with between four and six credited seasons.
You may be wondering why the 49ers gave Wright that extra dollar. Well, it could be another sign of the brilliance of the 49ers front office.
When a player is signed for the veteran minimum, there is something called the veteran minimum salary benefit. This gives teams a salary cap credit between the signed salary, and the base salary of a two-year veteran's salary of $555,000. The 49ers signed Kassim Osgood to a one-year veteran's minimum contract of $940,000, and Lavelle Hawkins to a one-year veteran's minimum contract of $715,000. For the purposes of the salary cap, their contracts only count $555,000 against the cap, with the rest being charged to "Player Benefits". The team can also pay out bonus compensation up to $65,000 on top of the deal.
The 49ers gave Wright $1 above the veteran minimum, so he will count for the entire $715,001, and not the $555,000. Why would the 49ers give up the $160,000 in cap space? Well, there is an important clause in this program. If Wright had signed a veteran minimum contract. they would not be able to negotiate a contract extension with him during the season. If he had a monster year, they would have to wait until after the season to work out a new deal.
In giving Wright the extra $1, and willingly taking on the modest cap hit, the 49ers have set themselves up in a rather brilliant way. If Wright blows up, and has a monster year, the 49ers can attempt to extend him. Given that the 49ers have a lot of cornerback talent potentially walking out the door after this season
The 49ers are on of the teams that don't use this program. Which could be bad and good. Neither Osgood or Hawkins are likely to be extended based on play, as they have been journeymen during their careers, but Wright is a good example, where now they can extend him during the 2013 season if he has a good season.