The San Francisco 49ers signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a sizable contract extension last week, but have put themselves in a position to avoid too many headaches down the road.
Garoppolo’s contract includes $48.7 million fully guaranteed at signing. Normally a player gets a big signing bonus, which can be prorated over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes. The deal includes a $7 million signing bonus, which prorates out at $1.4 million per year for cap purposes. However, the majority of the guaranteed money comes in the form of a $28 million roster bonus. That $28 million all hits on the team’s 2018 salary cap.
The 49ers were set to head into the 2018 league year with over $110 million in salary cap space. The Garoppolo contract includes a $37 million cap hit in year one, courtesy of the roster bonus. A similar, albeit much smaller comparison can be seen in Cassius Marsh’s contract.
Marsh signed a two-year extension the day before Garoppolo’s mega-deal. Marsh’s deal included $3.1 million fully guaranteed at signing. According to Jason Hurley, that was broken down into $1.1 million in 2018 base salary and a $2 million roster bonus due on March 17 this year.
This is only two contracts, but the 49ers had a strategy in mind with their excess of cap space. Per Over The Cap, the 49ers currently sit third in cap space, with $74,503,582. Last week, Paraag Marathe said the team had around $63 million in cap space, but that might factor in the cap space the team will use on their draft picks. Either way, they’ve got a lot of space.
A one-time roster bonus and a signing bonus are effectively the same thing in terms of cash pay out. The player gets the same amount either way. But it provides the team with some workarounds when they’ve got the kind of cap space we see with the 49ers. I don’t think we’ll see them use mostly roster bonuses when free agency starts, but their strategy thus far is pretty clear.