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49ers salary cap: 2016 projected cap, roster bonuses, potential cut candidates

We've got an early projection for the NFL's 2016 salary cap. Time to take another dive into the 49ers cap space heading into next year.

The 2015 NFL season still has a month to go, but the league has been meeting with teams to prepare them for the 2016 offseason. There have been various reports discussing the potential salary cap for next season, and it should be pretty sizable. After early reports suggested anywhere from $143 million to $153 million, the number has narrowed down into the $150 million to $153 million range. Pro Football Talk said a source suggested it could go as high as $155 million, but $153 million seems to be the top end of most reports.

With that in mind, I thought it was a good time to take a look at the San Francisco 49ers roster and how the 2016 salary cap might look for them. As of right now, I have the 49ers at $42,923,584 under the 2016 cap, with 51 players signed to contracts. That considers the higher end salary cap limit of $153 million.

I've also made some adjustments to some 49er players salary cap figures in 2016, and those are listed below. These players all had roster bonuses that paid out based on being active for each of the 16 games during the regular season. They were all paid some portion of their roster bonuses, but injuries have cost them some portion of the bonuses. The 49ers save the difference in 2015 salary cap space:

Colin Kaepernick - $2 million down to $1.125 million
Ahmad Brooks - $750,000 down to $656,250
Antoine Bethea - $400,000 down to $175,000
Tramaine Brock - $320,000 down to $200,000 (He can still be active for the last 5 weeks, which would make his roster bonus value $300,000)
Glenn Dorsey - $200,000 down to $125,000
Daniel Kilgore - $200,000 down to $62,500 (This is the most that he can make if he is activated, and plays every game left this season)

We will be going into considerable more detail about potential salary cap casualties when we get into the offseason. For now I thought it was worth an early look as we head into the final four games of the season. The team can elect to cut these players as a regular cut, or a post-June 1 cut. The latter means they cut the player immediately, but they do not see the cap savings until June 1. The benefit is the dead money gets spread over two years, instead of being rolled up into the current year. Teams are allowed only two such designations each offseason.

Colin Kaepernick is the most obvious candidate to be let go due to his significant salary cap figure next season. His 2016 cap figure is $15,890,753. That includes a base salary of $11.9 million, which becomes fully guaranteed at 1 p.m. PT on April 1, 2016.

The 49ers can trade or release Kaepernick. If they trade or release him as a pre-June 1 cut, they would see savings of $8,493,494 in 2016, while being on the hook for $7,397,259 in 2016 dead money. If they elect to designate him June 1st cut, they would incur a 2016 dead money hit of $2,465,753, with the remaining $4.9 million in 2017. This would result in 2016 salary cap savings of $13.425 million after June 1.

Ahmad Brooks is the next most likely candidate to be released. If he is cut without the June 1st designation, the 49ers would save $6,501,250 in cap space, and incur a dead money hit of $3,197,500 in 2016. If they were to designate him a June 1 cut, they would save $7.35 million, while taking a $2,348,750 dead money hit in 2016, and the rest in 2017. He is currently signed through 2017.

Antoine Bethea is also a potential candidate, although this one is based on how well Jaquiski Tartt plays the rest of the season. If Tartt plays well, and shows some signs in the offseason, Bethea could very well be released. The 49ers would save $3.75 million with a pre-June 1 cut, and take on a dead money hit of $2.5 million. If he was released with a June 1st designation, they would save $5 million in cap space, and his dead money hits would be $1.25 million in 2016 and $1.25 million in 2017.

Joe Staley seems like he will be sticking around, but given some of the rumors leading up to this year's trade deadline, anything is possible. If the team goes into rebuilding mode, maybe they elect to part ways with him via trade or release and completely rebuild this thing. The 49ers would need to release him before a $4 million option bonus comes due on April, and would need to be a post-June 1 designation to avoid an ugly cap hit. It seems unlikely that Staley gets released or traded at this point, but I've seen crazier things happen.

Glenn Dorsey is another possibility, but his salary is low enough that he would be a good veteran to retain in any further rebuilding process. Dorsey is signed through next season, with a cap hit of  the fact that he only has a $2,766,668 salary cap hit. Given that he is coming off a torn ACL, any release would be that much more difficult. Instead, it seems likely he opens 2016 training camp on the PUP list.

The last potential release is Erik Pears. The 49ers need to figure out an upgrade at right tackle, and it very well include the return of Anthony Davis. Pears has a $2.35 million cap hit in 2016, the final year of his two-year contract. If the 49ers release him, they would eat $250,000 in dead money, and save $2.1 million in cap space.

As always you can follow me on twitter, @Jay_AB81, and check out the rest of my salary cap articles, and pages, here on Niners Nation.