The last few days have seen quite a few big contracts axed as teams work to create cap space for the upcoming free agency period. The new league year starts on March 12, and with franchise tags to be applied in the coming weeks, teams are looking for any loose change they can find in their couch.
The 49ers have a modest amount of cap space, but will look to a variety of options for freeing up more cap space. Whether it be getting Justin Smith a contract extension, or parting ways with certain veterans, the 49ers brain trust has a host of options at their disposal.
For now we will continue looking at the various candidates to be cut. The 49ers could release some, all or none of these guys, but given their contracts and the state of their given position, they are logical candidates. Today we move on to outside linebacker Parys Haralson.
Haralson's 2013 cap figure is scheduled to come in a $2.87 million. This consists of a non-guaranteed base salary of $2.57 million, and non-guaranteed roster and workout bonuses totaling $300,000. If the 49ers elected to release Haralson, they would save the entire $2.87 million.
Haralson sat out the entire season with a torn triceps muscle, suffered at the end of the preseason. He was placed on injured reserve and the team signed Clark Haggans to fill his backup role. The 49ers utilized Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks over 90% of the time, potentially negating Haralson's value.
The obvious advantage to releasing Haralson is a nice bump of cap room from a guy who was not going to see the field much with the defense. At the same time, Haralson is a steady veteran backup. The 49ers starting outside linebackers are solid, but they lack depth at this point. Cam Johnson and Darius Fleming will get a chance to get some work in this offseason, but they were both late picks, leaving expectations relatively low.
At the end of the day, however, money talks. $2.87 million is high for a utility outside linebacker, and I expect Haralson to be released. I suspect the 49ers will look in the draft for another outside linebacker to compete with Johnson and Fleming, and possibly Haggans if the team brings him back to training camp. They could use a mid-round pick on guys like Florida State's Cornelius Caradnine and Brandon Jenkins, Stanford's Chase Thomas, Alabama's Nico Johnson, and Rutgers Khaseem Greene.
No matter what happens, the 49ers need to upgrade the spot, even if it is the fourth OLB. Cam Johnson and Darius Fleming will need to show something to prove they are worthy of a roster spot. If not, it may be a long offseason looking for a quality backup OLB behind the top three.