The website Over The Cap does a fantastic job of laying out each player's contracts and providing daily updates. On Friday morning, OTC updated their salary cap page for the San Francisco 49ers, and the Niners had an $11 million bump in cap space. That brings the team to $23 million before any restructures or potential cuts.
Incentives are divided into two categories. Likely to be earned (LTBE) or not likely to be earned (NLTBE.) LTBE incentives count against the team’s salary cap in the current season, unlike NLTBE incentives. It doesn’t happen often, but unearned LTBE incentives are credited to the following season’s salary cap. Assuming Over The Caps updates are correct, that’s what happened with San Francisco and why they were rewarded an extra $11 million.
Looking through some of the contracts on the roster, Richard Sherman had a $1 million per game roster bonus for 2020. Sherm played in five games this past season. It may not be that easy, but the math says that’s where the Niners' extra $11 million in cap space comes from.
NLTBE/LTBE incentives are based on the player or team’s previous year’s performance. I believe since Sherman played in 15 games during the regular season during the 2019 season and in 14 games in ‘18, Sherm’s incentives qualified as LTBE — which signals the $11 million counted against the 2020 salary cap for the 49ers and is now freed up for 2021.
This could be the difference in offering Trent Williams or Jason Verrett a few extra million to retain their services. It also could help sign another free agent that is outside of the building. Best of all, this news could prevent the team from restructuring a current contract on the roster out of desperation. As Rob ‘stats’ Guerrera said, “kicking the can down the road never works.”
With the Niners now having $23 million, they have the 12th-most cap space in the NFL. The team could still release Weston Richburg and Dee Ford — assuming he passes a physical — and extend the likes of Laken Tomlinson and Fred Warner to create another $15 million, at least. For as much worry as there has been about the team’s salary cap, it shouldn’t stand in the way of the 49ers acquiring necessary talent this offseason.