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49ers salary cap: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith raise financial questions

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The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of talent at outside linebacker, but there two biggest names are salary cap questions. Previous positions: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL

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The San Francisco 49ers are a little over three weeks away from the start of training camp. We just wrapped up a look at the 49ers bubble watch, position-by-position. Now, I thought we would take a look at the salary cap information for each position. Jason Hurley put together the tables with cap information for each position, and I have added some thoughts as well.

Before we get into the details, a brief explanation of the table. The first number is the player's cap number for 2015. The second is remaining fully guaranteed money on their deal. The third and fourth are dead money and cap savings this year if a player is released before the end of the season. The final two columns are for players released next offseason, but not as a June 1 cut.

I am not referencing league-wide spending because most outside analysis combines both inside and outside linebackers together.

Player 2015 Cap Number Gtd Money 2015 Dead $$ 2015 Cap Savings 2016 Dead $ (Pre-6/1) 2016 Cap Savings (Pre-6/1)
Ahmad Brooks $7,055,000 $5,546,250 $2,438,750 $4,706,250 $3,197,500 $6,501,250
Aldon Smith $4,855,050 $600,000 $600,000 $4,255,050 N/A N/A
Corey Lemonier $730,880 $271,760 $135,880 $595,000 $135,880 $685,000
Elli Harold $609,343 $697,372 $174,343 $435,000 $523,029 $206,314
Aaron Lynch $559,500 $148,500 $49,500 $510,000 $99,000 $550,500
Marcus Rush $438,333 $5,000 $1,666 $435,000 $6,667 $521,666

There are two big questions at the outside linebacker position when it comes to the salary cap. The first is what will happen to Ahmad Brooks, and the second is what will happen with Aldon Smith. They are likely going to be the two base down outside linebackers this fall, with Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold and potentially Corey Lemonier rotating in on passing downs.

Lynch proved himself to be a strong pass rusher, and at times looked solid on base downs when Brooks was being disciplined. Brooks remains a strong all-around outside linebacker who can rush the passer, set the edge against the run, and drop into coverage. He also has a sizable cap hit with the team eventually needing to consider an extension for Aldon Smith. It is worth noting that assuming he stays out of trouble, Smith will end the season with the highest cap hit of the outside linebackers. This number reflects that nine of his 16 game day roster bonuses are viewed as "not likely to be earned". Ideally he does in fact earn them.

The 49ers could clear a decent chunk of cap space by releasing Brooks, but are they sufficiently comfortable with Lynch as an every down outside linebacker this year? We'll find out by the end of August. I expect them to keep Brooks this year and clear out his cap space next year, but this team has surprised us before. I like the idea for now of an extensive rotation in that group, keeping the pass rushers fresh.

As for Aldon Smith, I don't anticipate an extension during the season, but it would probably be the team's best chance to get a remotely decent deal on an extension. If Smith stays out of trouble, I think even without Justin Smith we will see a strong year from the fifth year pass rusher. I don't want to see a bidding war next spring, but from a purely objective standpoint, I'd be curious to see how that might go. He's had his troubles, but this is a league that will give most anybody a second chance. Would a year and a half without trouble (fingers crossed) result in huge offers next spring, or would teams still be a bit wary of giving Smith a big contract?