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49ers salary cap 2015, cut candidates: Stevie Johnson

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We are taking a look at various candidates for release as the 49ers look to improve their 2015 salary cap situation. We look at wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

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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 tight end Vernon Davis. Today, we move on to wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

The 49ers acquired Johnson in a draft day trade this past May. The team sent the Buffalo Bills a conditional 2015 pick in exchange for Johnson. It was set as a fourth rounder, with a chance of moving to the third round if Johnson reached certain performance requirements that are unknown at this point. Johnson finished the season with 35 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns.

There were stretches where it seemed like Brandon Lloyd was going to be the team's No. 3 wide receiver, but then Johnson would get an opportunity and frequently make the most of it. He ended up with 42 fewer snaps than Lloyd, but in his time on the field, he was efficient. Pro Football Focus ranked him 16th in yards per route run among all wide receivers that appeared in at least 25 percent of the team's offensive snaps.

One problem this season was the knee injury he dealt with for part of the season. The knee only showed up on the injury report in Weeks 14 through 17, but there has been some chatter that it happened earlier in the year. The 49ers passing attack had plenty of question marks in 2014, but a nagging knee injury would certainly help further explain Johnson's overall lack of usage.

The Numbers

Johnson is scheduled to have a $6.025 million salary cap number, with a $5.5 million base salary. Johnson also has a $250,000 roster bonus, and a $275,000 workout bonus in 2015.

If the 49ers move on from Johnson, they would save the entire $6.025 million in salary cap room.

Depth Chart

Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd are free agents this year. If one or both depart, Stevie Johnson effectively moves into a starting role opposite Anquan Boldin. Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington will get opportunities, and the team is in prime position to select a wide receiver in the draft. There will be a lot of wide receiver talent in free agency, but it is highly unlikely the 49ers invest much money in free agent receivers.

Johnson is signed through 2016. The best option likely would be some kind of re-structuring of Johnson's contract for these two years. He is only 28, so if they view him as part of the long-term plan, they could add a year or two on to the deal, and convert 2015 base salary into a signing bonus that would pro-rate over the life of the contract.

As always you can find me on twitter, @Jay_AB81, or check out all the 49ers salary cap pages here on Niners Nation.