The contract details for newly signed cornerback Charvarius Ward and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway are out. It’s always fascinating to see how the Niners set up their contracts on a year-to-year basis.
Let’s stick with Ward, who was the team’s big catch this offseason. Ward signed a three-year deal worth up to $40.5 million. On the surface, some felt like Ward was overpaid. The 49ers only gave just north of $6 million guaranteed for the duration of his contract, and it all comes in the first two years.
Here’s a look at Ward’s cap numbers through 2025:
My first reaction was, “wow, they’re really going to keep Jimmy G on the books in 2022, huh?” There are numerous ways to look at Ward’s cap numbers. The most logical is likely that with the rising salary cap, by 2024, assuming Ward continues to grow as a player, that $15.4 million cap hit looks like a bargain.
Ward is outside of the top-40 cornerbacks as far as cap number in 2022 goes. As of today, Ward jumps to ninth in 2023 and eighth in 2024. But knowing there will be a handful, at least, of other cornerback deals, it’s unlikely Ward remains in the top-10.
So, San Francisco is paying Ward to play like an above-average but not an elite cornerback, which is fair. This season, Ward is paid closer to a veteran minimum contract. He has a chance to make the deal look like a steal if Ward plays to his potential.
More on Ward’s contract: He’s guaranteed $26 million total, with $13.56 million guaranteed for injury once he signed the deal. On April 1, 2023, Ward has a $12.56 million roster bonus if he’s on the team on April 1, 2023. Other bonuses on Ward’s contract include $500,000 for making the Pro Bowl, as well as making the first or second-team All-Pro.
If you’re wondering when the Niners could realistically get out from under Ward’s contract in the event he doesn’t pan out, 2024 would be the soonest as all of Ward’s guaranteed salary is paid to him during the next two seasons.
The 49ers will eat $7.2 million in dead money while saving $8.2 million in cap space if Ward is released pre-June 1. A post-June-1 release for Ward would save the team $10.5 million in cap space.
Ideally, Ward develops into one of the premier cornerbacks in the league, and we’re talking about an extension in a couple of years.