After a COVID-reduced number in 2021, the NFL officially released the salary cap for 2022 — $208.2M.
Unlike the other major sports, the NFL salary cap is a hard cap, meaning that teams cannot exceed their players' salaries. During the offseason, only the Top-51 salaries count against the salary cap. Before the season begins in the Fall, all 53 players on the roster will count against the cap.
All NFL teams will have to be under the cap before the new league year, which is March 16 this season. After re-signing Jake Brendel on Wednesday, the 49ers have some work to do, as they’re currently $5.62M over it.
Let’s dive deeper into the numbers to exactly what the 49ers’ spending power is heading into Free Agency next week.
2022 NFL Official Salary Cap: $208.2M
2021 49ers’ carryover: $1.6M
2021 49ers’ adjustments: $3.6M
2022 49ers’ adjusted Salary Cap: $213.4M
Carryover is unused salary cap space from last season, which rolls over into the following season. It’s like when people had to pay for talking minutes on their cell phones and got to roll over the unused minutes into the next month. Same thing, except with salary-cap space.
Adjustments typically come from incentives not being reached. When a player has “LTBE” (Likely To Be Earned) incentives in his contract, that number counts against the salary cap. But if those incentives aren’t reached, then that rolls over as unused salary cap space into the following season.
Adding both of these numbers to the NFL’s official salary cap, the 49ers will have $213.4M to spend in 2022. They are currently at $219M with 49 players under contract, which puts them $5.62M over the cap.
They will have to shed that salary before March 16. As most of you are probably thinking, the easiest way to immediately lower that number is by trading (or releasing) Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers could free up $25.55M in cap space with a single move.
I’d also expect San Francisco to look to lower Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward’s cap hits in 2022 with restructures (not pay cuts) and extensions. These moves should allow the 49ers to be heavy spenders in free agency around their young quarterback.
It’ll also pave the way for long-term extensions for Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa in the summer.