The 49ers went from one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL to the most electric in 2022. Brock Purdy deserves plenty of credit for those results, but it’s tough to ignore the impact Christian McCaffrey had.
The Niners had five eligible weapons that rival any team in the NFL. It’s nearly impossible to have the amount of talent on the roster, but San Francisco understands how to set contracts up in their favor.
Tej Seth of Sumer Sports tweeted the amount of cap space allocated on offensive supporting casts in 2022, and despite the 49ers early round investments at skill positions, they were 27th in the NFL:
amount of money spent on offensive supporting cast, 2022:— Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics) February 27, 2023
1. NE, $91.1 million
2. DAL, $89.1
3. LAC, $86.2
4. NYJ, $85.8
5. ARI, $82.7
6. JAX, $78.7
27. SF, $58.0
28. LA, $57.3
29. ATL, $56.5
30. CAR, $55.7
31. CHI, $49.2
32. PIT, $42.4
To avoid any confusion, supporting cast simply means non-quarterback. Unsurprisingly, the teams depending on quarterbacks that are on rookie contracts are near the bottom of the list.
But shouldn’t that be even more of a reason to splurge on weapons to prop your young signal-caller up? That’s what the 49ers did.
Deebo Samuel’s extension only cost the 49ers $965,000 in base salary last season. His contract doesn’t spike until 2024, where his base salary jumps to $20.9 million. So, San Francisco gets Deebo on the cheap for another season.
Christian McCaffrey’s contract base salary was $1.035 million in ‘22. That number goes to $11.8 million for the next two seasons, making CMC an obvious restructure candidate.
San Francisco could save $7.2 million in 2023 and $5.4 million in 2024 by restructuring McCaffrey’s contract. Knowing his value to the offense and how much of a security blanket McCaffrey would be for Trey Lance and Purdy, that’d be an easy way for the 49ers to create space.
George Kittle’s extension looks brilliant a couple of seasons later. The 49ers had Kittle’s base salary at a combined $2.2 million for the previous two years. In 2023, that number will be $11.6 million.
Finally, the fifth weapon. The 49ers are expected to pick up Brandon Aiyuk’s fifth-year option. His salary amount for 2023 will be $14.124 million. San Francisco would likely work out an extension with Aiyuk that’s similar to the players mentioned above, where there’s a lower cap hit in the earlier years.
So, while the 49ers allocated the sixth-lowest amount of money in 2022, they’ll be closer to the top 10, maybe even top 5, in 2023. But that’s the luxury you have with a quarterback on a rookie contract.