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49ers carrying large amount of dead money, but salary cap situation remains positive

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NaVorro Bowman and Vance McDonald come off the books after this season!

The San Francisco 49ers have just about settled on their 53-man roster for Week 1, with only the potential for an additional running back on the radar. The team placed Jerick McKinnon on injured reserve, and his injury has me wondering if anyone other than Raheem Mostert will get in the mix.

Even if the 49ers add a running back, the player will likely be at or near the league minimum in salary. That means we have a pretty good idea about where the team stands from a salary cap perspective. On Saturday, following the cutdown to the 53 man roster, our man Jason Hurley offered this update on the 49ers cap situation for this year and headed into 2019.

That reflects the eventual practice squad signings (10 players at $7,600 per week), but it does not reflect some subsequent roster moves. In moving Jerick McKinnon and Marcell Harris to injured reserve and then signing safety Antone Exum and offensive lineman Matt Tobin, they add a pair of league minimum salaries to the books. Prior to the season, the cap only counts the top 51 salaries. On Thursday, that rule expires and a team’s cap counts their entire roster, practice squad, and injured players. Jason’s cap number reflects all that, prior to the team’s Monday transactions.

At Over The Cap, you can track every team’s salary cap position, and Jason Fitzgerald posted the top six teams in terms of dead money. The 49ers rank fourth in the NFL with over $22 million in dead money.

The two biggest dead cap figures, and six of the top eight are all from players released or traded last year. Here are the top eight dead cap figures.

NaVorro Bowman — $4,774,000
Vance McDonald — $4,200,000
Jeremiah Attaochu — $2,750,000
Jonathan Cooper — $2,475,000
Brian Hoyer — $2,000,000
Quinton Dial — $1,613,500
Jeremy Kerley — $1,133,334
Zane Beadles — $583,334

Attaochu and Cooper are the two biggest cap hits for players released this year. It is notable that both were signed to one-year deals, so neither will be on the books next year as post-June 1 cuts/trades like the other six players.

I was a little concerned by the 49ers willingness to eat dead money each of the past two years, but the two biggest numbers on there were a result of shedding contracts from the Trent Baalke era. Additionally, they will be in solid shape next year. OTC’s list of 49ers dead money does not include UDFA releases that result in a few thousand dollars. We’ll see that on next year’s cap, but barring any notable releases the rest of this season, the 49ers will be carrying very little dead money into 2019. They’ve got considerable cap space to take more dead money hits, but the books are getting further cleaned up at just the right time.