The San Francisco 49ers veterans return for training camp on Friday, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share a random anniversary today. Cam Inman retweeted this tweet from an account tracking random sports anniversaries:
On this day in 1997, the San Francisco 49ers signed QB Steve Young to the most lucrative contract in NFL history, six years at $45 million.— Sports Anniversaries (@SportsAnnys) July 30, 2015
A week prior to this deal, Brett Favre signed a seven-year $47.25 million contract, which averaged out to $6.8 million per year. Young's deal averaged out to $7.5 million, which made him the highest paid player in the league. Young's deal did not include a signing bonus, and his annual salaries reportedly broke down as follows:
1997: $3 million
1998: $10 million
1999: $8.3 million
2000: $6.6 million
2001: $7.8 million
2002: $9.4 million
At the time of the deal, Carmen Policy and Leigh Steinberg (Young's agent) said there was a strong possibility the deal would be restructured as soon as the following year. And less than a year later, it was re-done. On February 12, 1998, Young signed a new six-year deal worth $49.175 million. Two years later, he renegotiated the deal again. On February 10, 2000, the team cleared $3 million in cap space with a restructured deal. Young would announce his retirement later that offseason, so I am not sure how it subsequently impacted the 49ers salary cap.
The 49ers were in some awful cap shape during that time, and that last link breaks down how much they did to get under the salary cap. Their transactions included the following:
San Francisco saved about $6 million through the release of 12 players, including former Pro Bowlers Tim McDonald and Lee Woodall, and the retirements of defensive end Charles Haley and fullback Tommy Vardell.
The 49ers also realized another $13 million in cap savings by restructuring the contracts of another dozen players, including linebacker Ken Norton Jr., defensive tackle Bryant Young and running backs Charlie Garner, Travis Jervey and Garrison Hearst and wide receiver Terrell Owens.
That was certainly an ugly period, and the 49ers would eventually just about blow everything up and rebuild entirely.