The San Francisco 49ers used up a sizable chunk of 2018 salary cap space in Jimmy Garoppolo’s recent contract signing. The team gave him a $28 million roster bonus, which ballooned his first year cap figure to $37 million. It turns out, the team would have used more if they could.
Albert Breer’s latest “Game Plan” column featured a note on the 49ers negotiations with Garoppolo. The 49ers loaded up year one with the roster bonus due to their excess of 2018 cap space. However, they were limited in just how far they could go.
Marathe said he’d have put even more into Year 1, if not for the little-known 50/50 rule, which compels teams to make the Year 2 cap figure at least 50 percent of the Year 1 figure.
The 49ers gave Garoppolo a $7 million signing bonus to go along with the roster bonus. While the roster bonus impacts only the 2018 salary cap, the signing bonus prorates for the five years of the contract ($1.4 million per year). With all the numbers factored in, Garoppolo’s cap figure in 2018 is $37 million, while it is $20 million in 2019.
If the 49ers had gone with a $35 million roster bonus (the existing roster bonus plus the $7 million that became a signing bonus), the 2018 cap hit would have been $42.6 million and the 2019 cap hit would have been $18.6 million — leaving it at much less than the 50/50 rule would dictate.
I’ve been doing some digging, and I only found one version of this 50 percent rule in the CBA. In this article about Gosder Cherilus’ 2013 contract, it brings up the CBA section that might apply. Article 13, Section 6(b) talks about salary cap accounting rules for signing bonuses. Subsection (iii) discusses “amounts treated as signing bonuses.” Sub-sub section (5) says, “The difference between the Salary in the second contract year and the first contract year when Salary in the second contract year is less than half the Salary called for in the first year of such Contract.”
Salary includes all money payable, which would seem to include bonuses and the like. If the 49ers had given Garoppolo a $35 million roster bonus instead of a $28 million roster bonus and $7 million signing bonus, his total salary for 2018 would be $42.6 million ($6.2M salary + $35M roster bonus + $800,000 in-season roster bonus + $600,000 workout bonus), while his 2019 salary would have been $18.6 million ($17.2M salary + $800,000 in-season roster bonus + $600,000 workout bonus. I believe that for cap purposes, the difference would have been converted into prorated salary bonus. He’d get the same money, it would just be accounted for differently.
This might only be of interest to salary cap nerds like myself, but it’s an interesting little quirk that has to be considered in contract negotiations. The 49ers have focused on roster bonuses this offseason due to their excess of cap space. We saw it with Garoppolo, we saw it with Cassius Marsh, and I would not be surprised to see it with Daniel Kilgore’s extension. They have the space to do this, but there are still rules in place to prevent them from going too far overboard with it.