Monday afternoon, Matt Maiocco reported a source told him the San Francisco 49ers "plan to enter into talks with [Chris] Culliver's representation on a contract extension this offseason." Culliver is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He will earn $1,431,000, and is eligible for a new deal as per the collective bargaining agreement. His salary climbed to that number because of the proven performance escalator.
Culliver has two years playing experience under his belt, with his third year spent on injured reserve with a torn ACL. His experience to date has been as the 49ers nickel back. When playing, he generally came on as one of the outside cornerbacks, while Carlos Rogers moved inside to cover a slot receiver.
This coming season, Culliver is in line to get a starting spot along with Tramaine Brock. Culliver has work to do in his continued recovery from ACL surgery last year, but with Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers out of the picture, he has to be considered a favorite to get a starting nod. The 49ers re-signed Eric Wright, and added Chris Cook on a 1-year deal, but they are also likely to draft at least one cornerback. This year's draft class is particularly deep, and with 11 picks in hand, the 49ers have a lot of opportunities to boost their cornerback depth.
The fact that the team is looking to get an extension done now would indicate the team is comfortable with what Culliver brings to the table, and is also happy with his rehab progress. More importantly for cap purposes, they might be able to get him signed to a three or four year extension at a fairly reasonable price. He has extensive playing experience under his belt, but his experience was as a substitute, and he is coming off a major injury. They won't low ball him or anything, but they are in a position for a fairly team-friendly deal. And given his knee injury, I imagine there will be a sizable amount of game-day roster bonuses included.
The 49ers have time to work on this, and any extension is unlikely to be finalized until after June 1 at the earliest. The NFLPA salary cap report states that the 49ers have $3,726,835 in cap space. They can get some extensions done with that, but with $6.6 million in cap space coming free on June 1, I think the 49ers will take their time on the extensions. If they suddenly get intrigued by a free agent or someone of potential value comes along, they don't want to lock up more of that $3.7 million. I don't expect that to happen, but it's good to have some space in case of the unexpected.