The Super Bowl and 2014 season are in our rear view mirror, and we are now a month away from the start of free agency. Things have quieted down enough that we have time to start better assessing where the San Francisco 49ers stand from a salary cap standpoint. The 49ers are currently just under $3 million under the 2015 salary cap when you factor in credits and roll-over space.
Last week, we took a look at guaranteed money. We are now moving on to a series of articles on potential salary cap casualties. We are looking at five candidates to be released, breaking down their recent performance, and what a release would mean from a cap and roster perspective. We're publishing these in descending order of 2015 cap figure. We began with outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, and today we move on to tight end Vernon Davis. It is safe to say there will be a lot of opinions about his future with the 49ers.
It was not a pretty season for Davis, and it became a problem before the season even started. Davis skipped the offseason workout program and looked ready to hold out for training camp. He talked about his brand and other issues, but eventually he did finally show up at the start of training camp.
Davis finished the season with 26 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdowns. His yards and touchdowns were both career lows, and his receptions were the lowest since his rookie season. He actually got off to a nice start, catching both touchdowns in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. However, it went downhill from there. He got hurt in Week 2 and missed two of the next three weeks. He returned and played the final 11 games, but there was always that hint that he was hurting. Davis denied it, but something seemed amiss. It is possible he is simply hitting a wall, and his career is on the downswing. However, if he was in fact banged up in 2014, that could bode well for 2015.
Davis is scheduled to have a $6,967,920 salary cap number in 2015, with a $4.35 million base salary. He was due to have a $400,000 roster bonus, but being inactive for two games in 2014 dropped it to $350,000. He also has a $200,000 workout bonus.
If the 49ers choose to move on from Davis, they would save $4.9 million in salary cap room. Because he has only one year left on his deal, any release would result in the 49ers taking a $2,067,920 dead money hit in 2015.
The 49ers depth chart is a pretty significant question mark no matter what happens with Davis. Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier all dealt with various injuries. If the group is healthy, we could see a return to form in 2015. Of course, the team could also look to invest in a rookie tight end. Even if Davis is not released, his time with the 49ers would not seem to be long. Barring a modest contract extension, Davis will be a free agent after this season, so the team will need to figure out some long-term options.