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For the third straight season, the 49ers found themselves playing on championship Sunday. While the outcome left a bitter taste in the mouths of the team and fans, the turnaround the franchise has experienced under the Trent Baalke/Jim Harbaugh regime has been nothing short of amazing.
With the season completed, the focus now turns to the future. What does the future hold for the 49ers?
There are a number of questions as the team heads into the offseason. Do Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith get contract extensions? Will they look to trim Frank Gore's large salary? Can they find a way to bring back Anquan Boldin? What happens with Jonathan Goodwin? How do they deal with the large cap number of Carlos Rogers? Will Donte Whitner return? How about Phil Dawson?
I have attempted to answer each of those questions below. Each position group has been broken down with how it may be set up going into 2014.
Quarterback: ~ 3,026,457
Colin Kaepernick - $1,630,457
*Veteran Backup - $865,000
*Draft Pick ~ *531,000
Kaepernick enters the final year of his rookie deal in 2014. There has been a lot of speculation that the 49ers will want to extend him now instead of waiting and this makes a lot of sense. Sign him now while he has no exposure to the open market.
The problem with that line of thinking is that it takes two to get the deal done, and why would Kaepernick give the 49ers a discount now when he can further build his value with an outstanding 2014?
My take on the situation is that Kaepernick, who is extremely confident in his ability, will hold onto his cards and push his chips all in a la Joe Flacco.
With Colt McCoy set to be an unrestricted free agent, the 49ers will likely be in the market for a veteran backup. They may choose to bring McCoy back or look outside at free agents such as Josh McCown, Derek Anderson or Kellen Clemens, all of whom have proven to be capable backups and can be had for approximately $865k.
I would also look for the 49ers to draft a rookie somewhere around the 3rd round. Based on the positioning of their 3rd round picks, a quarterback drafted in this area would require a salary in the neighborhood of $531k.
Running Back: ~ 10,874,870
Frank Gore - $6,450,000
Kendall Hunter - $754,805
LaMichael James - $905, 154
Marcus Lattimore - $570,146
Bruce Miller - 1,404,765
Frank Gore will be 31 by the time training camp comes around, and his salary puts him among the top 10 paid running backs in the league. It would be in the best interest of the 49ers to work with Gore to redo his deal to make it more cap friendly as they did last off-season with Justin Smith. By spreading Gore's current cap number over two seasons with limited dead money in 2015, they would be able to keep a pillar of the franchise and give him another chance to win that elusive ring.
If Gore is unwilling to negotiate, it may be time for the organization to move on. There is no dead money tied to his release, so this would save the team $6.45 million against the salary cap.
With Marcus Lattimore coming off a knee injury suffered during his senior season at South Carolina, it would be in the 49ers best interest to have a solid veteran in place. If they decide to part ways with Gore, Toby Gerhart would be a good option. Gerhart's running style fits perfectly with the Harbaugh system and he would probably be available for something in the neighborhood of $1.5 million. Gerhart also has experience playing special teams which would allow him to replace Anthony Dixon on several special teams units.
Potential Savings: ~ $3,000,000
Wide Receiver: ~ $12,845,260
Michael Crabtree - $4,770,000
Quinton Patton - $592,875
*Anquan Boldin - $5,000,000
*Kassim Osgood - $940,000
*Draft Pick ~ $1,541,952
From their 2013 roster, the 49ers have only Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton under contract. Based on a couple tweets from Anquan Boldin it appears that he would be willing to return, but at what price? The 49ers will likely come up with their number, my guess is about 10 million over 2 years, and it will be up to Boldin to take it or move on.
If Boldin isn't willing to settle for the 49ers offer, there are other options that would fit nicely. Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, Julian Edelman, and Doug Baldwin all could be good investments from free agency at or below the dollar amount set for Boldin.
Osgood was a special teams standout and contributed more to the offense in 2013 than Ted Ginn Jr the season before. Based on his special teams value I would look to bring Osgood back with a contract in line with the one he played under this season.
I would expect to see the 49ers utilize one of their 6 day 1 or 2 draft picks on a receiver. I am slotting them with a wide receiver at #18 after a trade up in the first round.
Tight End: ~ $8,757,911
Vernon Davis - $7,367,916
Vance McDonald - $817,995
Garrett Celek - $572,000
Derek Carrier could push Celek for the third tight end spot, or potentially be a fourth tight end should they decide to carry only 2 quarterbacks as they did over the second half of 2013.
Offensive Line: ~ $18,884,505
Joe Staley - $3,400,000
Mike Iupati - $3,225,863
Daniel Kilgore - $685,075
Alex Boone - $1,540,000
Anthony Davis - $7,532,266
Adam Snyder - $1,300,000
Joe Looney - $676,301
Ryan Seymour/*Draft Pick - $495,000/~$445,700
With veteran center Jonathan Goodwin's contract expiring look for Daniel Kilgore or Joe Looney to take command of the 49ers offensive line. Adam Snyder played well when called on to replace an injured Mike Iupati at left guard.
The only new face to this group for 2014 will likely be either Ryan Seymour or a mid-round draft pick, likely a guard.
Defensive Line: ~ 19,024,370
Justin Smith - $6,936,666
Glenn Dorsey - $3,792,500
Ray McDonald - $5,346,985
Tank Carradine - $1,124,473
Ian Williams - $1,283,333
Tony Jerod-Eddie/Quinton Dial - $495,000/540,413
The top three in this group should remain the same as 2013. Carradine, a second round pick in the 2013 draft, should be healed from the injury that kept him off the field for the entire season and ready to contribute.
Ian Williams won the starting nose tackle job in training camp, however an injury suffered in week 2 in Seattle forced him to be place on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
Tony Jerod-Eddie really came on as the season went on and may make Quintion Dial, a 2013 draft pick, the odd-man out in this group depending on how many they decide to keep.
Inside Linebacker: ~ $15,074,918
Navorro Bowman - $7,050,000
Patrick Willis - $6,863,000
*Michael Wilhoite - $640,000
Nick Moody - $540,000
The big question with this group heading into 2014 will be the health of Navorro Bowman; will he be ready for week 1? Look for the 49ers to add someone through free agency or the draft should Bowman not be ready to go when the season starts.
Wihoite proved to be a valuable backup and special teams standout, and would be the most likely candidate to replace Bowman in the starting lineup. As an exclusive rights free agent the 49ers can keep him by offering him a deal at the three year veteran minimum salary.
Moody was a part of the special teams units early in the season before an injury forced him to be placed on the injured reserve with designation to return list. He was not active for any games following his return from the injury but he is still a promising prospect.
Outside Linebacker: ~ $14,367,607
Ahmad Brooks - $7,500,000
Aldon Smith - $4,576,727
Dan Skuta - $1,650,000
Corey Lemonier - $640,880
The 49ers outside linebacker group appears to be set. This unit ranks among the best in the NFL from top to bottom.
The big question here is the contract status of Aldon Smith. Smith is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could be due a hefty increase, but his issues off the field and the performance of Dan Skuta in his absence may change how the 49ers approach these negotiations.
Cornerback: ~ $5,703,665
Tramaine Brock - $2,000,000
Chris Culliver - $1,538,719
*Perrish Cox - $555,000
Darryl Morris - $495,000
*Draft ~ $613,533
*Draft ~ $501,413
With Carlos Rogers due to earn $7,344,531 next season, it is unlikely that he is back with the 49ers next season unless he is willing to take a deep cut in pay. It is likely that the 49ers will wait until after June 1st to release Rogers, a move that would save the team roughly $6,600,000 in cap space.
Chris Culliver appears to be well on his way to returning from a knee injury suffered in training camp that wiped out his entire 2013 season. Look for Culliver to ascend into the starting role opposite Tramaine Brock.
Perrish Cox could be a likely candidate to replace Rogers in the 49ers nickle defense. As a restricted free agent, he comes with a low price tag, and his strong performances in the first two rounds of the playoffs create confidence that he can hold up inside.
Look for the 49ers to use one of their three picks in the first two rounds on a corner.
Safety: ~ $6,870,335
Eric Reid - $1,927,444
Craig Dahl - $1,883,333
CJ Spillman - $1,558,334
Bubba Ventrone - $855,000
*Draft ~ $646,224
For the second year in a row it appears likely that the 49ers will lose a Pro Bowl safety. With Donte Whitner's contract expiring, it is hard to see the team being willing to give him the big dollar deal that he likely is seeking. The fact that he will turn 29 prior to the season will also likely play into their decision.
Look for Whitner's replacement to come on day 1 or 2 of the draft.
Specialists: ~ $5,296,666
Andy Lee - $2,400,000
*Phil Dawson ~ $2,400,000
Kevin McDermott - $496,666
Total: ~ $120,127,859 (Salaries) + $3,401,595 (Dead Money) = $124,127,859
Projected Salary Cap - $126,300,000
With these moves the team will be left with just over $2.1 million which would allow them to fill in needs on the roster throughout the season should the need arise.
What do you think of this roster? What would you change? One thing is certain, the future of the 49ers franchise is bright.
**All salary information is courtesy of overthecap.com and spotrac.com