The San Francisco 49ers could find themselves in a whole different ballgame amidst reports that Justin Smith and Patrick Willis are both expected to announce their retirements. Neither is official, but there are strong indications both are set to call it a career.
If these two do in fact retire, the one upside if the 49ers will clear significant cap space. We've discussed Smith's potential retirement. The team would clear $4,250,000, and take a dead money hit of $2,186,668. We have not discussed Patrick Willis's retirement, but the team would clear $7,424,500 if he decides to hang up his cleats. They would take a dead money hit of only $843,500.
Those two retirements would combine for $11,674,500 in cap space. And of course, the team could still decide to release Ahmad Brooks and Stevie Johnson, among others. If the team released those two, they would clear $4,706,250 for Brooks as a post-June 1 cut, and $6,025,000 from Johnson. Add those two moves in, and the 49ers clear a total of $22,405,750 in cap space.
It is far from an ideal situation in terms of roster losses, but there would at least be cap space to spend trying to fill notable holes. The team will potentially add Torrey Smith to the mix, and has already added Darnell Dockett. We don't know what kind of money is involved in the potential Smith signing, but I imagine it would still leave the 49ers with significant cap space (in light of these other potential roster transactions).