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Potential salary cap implications of Aldon Smith contract restructure

Aldon Smith restructured his contract to include mostly roster bonuses. We break down the salary cap implications.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers and Aldon Smith agreed to restructure his fifth year option this week, turning his $9.754 million into a series of roster bonuses. This has resulted in questions about the salary cap implications of the deal. Jason from Over The Cap put something together last night that explained the situation. I thought I would flesh that out a bit.

A player usually is required to earn at least the league minimum in any given year. Even when a player restructures to include a signing bonus for purposes of cap savings, they still are getting the league minimum. Smith has four credited seasons under his belt, which means that league minimum would be $745,000. More than likely (barring any rule of which I am unaware), he will have that plus $9 million in roster bonuses.

Roster bonuses do not prorate over the life of a deal. Smith only has a one-year deal, so it does not matter anyway, but for future deals, keep that in mind. However, one area where the 49ers could find some savings due to his suspension last season. As Jason described it, because Aldon Smith missed nine games, that is factored into his expected games this season. That lowers the cap hit from $9.754 million to $5.8165 million for the time being.

I say the time being because if he ends up playing all 16 games, the 49ers would have to factor that difference into the cap. If he does not play all the games, they only take a cap hit for what he does play. What that means is until we get into the season, the 49ers will save that $3,937,500 against the cap. If he plays the full 16 games, they will need to find that space.

How does that benefit the team now? If the 49ers elect to release Ahmad Brooks, they would save $1.5 million. If they were to release him and designate him a June 1 cut, they would save $4.7 million. However, as a June 1 cut, the 49ers would not see those savings until June 1. In saving nearly $4 million for now with Aldon Smith's restructure, the 49ers effectively get those savings right away.

I still cannot say why for certain Aldon Smith would agree to this kind of deal. His agent talked about wanting to earn back trust, and Smith being thankful the 49ers have had his back. There is certainly a chance that is completely true, but consider me skeptical. This is a fairly unprecedented restructuring, at least as far as I can tell. Smith's agent said the 49ers did not say he had to take this or be cut. Maybe that is the case, maybe not.

One interesting aspect to this is the fact that Smith can earn $2 million in bonuses during the offseason. His option salary originally would have become fully guaranteed this coming Tuesday at the start of the league year. Normally a player receives their base salary in weekly checks during the regular season. Originally I thought that maybe Smith needed money up front so he agreed to the restructure so he could get the up-front money. However, I realized this morning that a player is entitled to get paid on a normal pay schedule over the full calendar year. Most do not, but it is an option. Given that, I don't really know what this means entirely.