There are cap casualties for every team. If you don’t follow the San Francisco 49ers, you’re probably unaware that Weston Richburg or Dee Ford have been the Niners' primary cap casualties since the season started.
Today, I wanted to find a few players who might be available a month from now once free agency is underway. We’ll stick with cornerbacks today, as it remains one of the 49ers' biggest positional needs this offseason. Let’s start with a former Defensive Player of the Year because who doesn’t want to swing for the fences.
Stephon Gilmore - Patriots
Gilmore is under contract for one more season. If traded, the Patriots would pay Gilmore his prorated bonus of $8.9 million, while the team acquiring Gilmore would be on the hook for his 2021 base salary, which is $7 million.
The 31-year-old would fetch a Day 2 pick, likely a second-rounder, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe. Gilmore is at that age where a cornerback's production falls off a cliff. You also have to worry about injuries. Gilmore suffered a quad injury this past season and also missed time due to COVID-19. For the season, Gilmore missed five games. In the previous two seasons, Gilmore did not miss any time in New England.
Gilmore didn’t look like the same player in 2020 as he did in 2018 & 2019, where he was one of the best defenders in the NFL. That’s not to take anything away from him, as Gilmore remains one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. At a $7 million price tag, he’s certainly worth picking up the phone and asking if he’s available.
A second-round pick might be too rich for a player on the wrong side of 30, but if New England is ready to move on, perhaps a pair of third-round comp picks could do the trick if San Francisco felt like Gilmore is worthy of the investment.
Janoris Jenkins - Saints
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Saints
Team’s projected team cap: -$69.09 million
Cap hit: $14.2 million
Cap savings pre-June 1: $7 million
Cap savings post-June 1: $10 million
With so much uncertainty about the 49ers’ secondary, it’s hard to rule much out. Patrick Peterson is a free agent, too. The 49ers are going to have to pay somebody to play corner for them, and while the odds point towards that being Jason Verrett, Jenkins will be on the market, too, and at age 33, likely isn’t getting the $14.2 million he was scheduled to.
Jenkins turned 32 this past October. Like Gilmore, he’s on the wrong side of 30. Like Gilmore, Jenkins remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL.
This past season, Jenkins allowed a completion percentage of 54.8%, broke up eight passes, and had three interceptions. Sports Info Solutions had Jenkins dropping three interceptions, too. Jenkins was even better with the Giants during the 2019 season as he allowed a completion percentage of 48.3% with 11 passes broken up and four interceptions.
During the past two seasons, Jenkins has only allowed five touchdowns on 113 targets. This past year for New Orleans, Jenkins only missed five tackles. He’d give the 49ers the veteran presence they need at cornerback, and you’re getting him on a one-year affordable deal, presumably, with the salary cap’s floor set at $180 million.
If San Francisco elects to go the veteran route, Jenkins would be my pick as he’s been vastly underrated throughout his career.
Kyle Fuller - Bears
Chicago is currently $2.5 million over the salary cap. Fuller has a cap number of $20 million this season. Chicago would be wise to work out an extension with Fuller. Fuller could be released if they elect not to, and the Bears have $8 million in cap space. Trading Fuller would save the Bears $2 million. Both are options if the team cannot work out a deal with Fuller.
Once you see Fuller’s cap number, you were likely turned off at the notion of acquiring his services. If traded, San Francisco would be on the hook for Fuller’s remaining salary, which comes in at around $11 million for 2021. Fuller is under contract through the 2023 season and has zero dollars guaranteed in his contract after this year. San Francisco could push some of Fuller’s salary into future years, as his current cap number for ‘22 and ‘23 are only $1.5 million. Thinking big picture, Fuller would be affordable for the Niners.
At 29, it’s tough to determine what Fuller’s value would be. Fuller was superb this past season and has been since he entered the league. Fuller has never missed a start during his five-year career. In 2020, he allowed a 55.9% completion rate, broke up six passes, and had one interception. Using Sports Info Solutions' “total points saved” stat, Fuller saved 52 points, which was two points worse than Jason Verrett.