The NFL salary cap has climbed at a significant rate under the current collective bargaining agreement, and one number in particular shows how crazy it is: 116 million.
The San Francisco 49ers are projected to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $116 million in cap space, barring any further signings. That covers their projected cap space next year coupled with the money they can roll over this year. That is a ridiculous number, but it’s all the more so because the salary cap in 2008 was $116 million. The entire cap for each team (aside from rolled over money and other credits) was $116 million. The 49ers unspent salary cap space at the start of the new league year could match the entire cap of 2008.
The 49ers have cleared out a lot of money in this rebuilding process, so having a ton of cap room is not shocking. But just seeing that number compared to 2008 kind of blows my mind.
Now that Jimmy Garoppolo is emerging as the potential long-term answer at quarterback, that cap space is all the more enticing. The 49ers have a lot of holes, but they are finding some key cogs on both sides of the ball. The draft will be critical, but the 49ers have the kind of cap space to make some serious splashes in free agency without crippling the future of the team.
If the right big name is there and willing to sign in March, that potentially creates even more flexibility when the draft rolls around. For example, say they decide Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is worth a big money deal. That takes cornerback off the board at least in the first round. Or maybe they invest in Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell if he hits the market. I don’t think it takes guard entirely off the table, but it is not as pressing a need.
The upcoming offseason is a huge one for the 49ers, but they are in a position to set this team up to be a contender by next season. Jimmy Garoppolo’s emergence has people excited, but they have the money and draft picks to kick this rebuild even further into overdrive.