The rumor mill is in full swing. In case you've been living in a cave eating Snickers all day here's the skinny: The Jets need a running back and they need one bad.

They recently traded for Cleveland running back Lee Suggs. But alas, Suggs failed his physical and the trade was null and void.

So now the rumor is that the Jets are interested in 49ers running back Kevan Barlow. In 49er land, the time seems right. Barlow seems to be earning the label of underachiever because of his low yards-per-carry average over the last two seasons. And with all the dancing Barlow does before he hits the hole he may have visions of continuing his career on Dancing With the Stars ala Jerry Rice and Emmit Smith. By almost all accounts Barlow seems destined to end up second on the depth chart behind second year player Frank Gore by season's end.

Some people, though, say Barlow should not be traded because he is still the best running back on the roster. With a recent endorsement by Coach Nolan, this seems to be enough of a reason for him to stay. Let's not forget though, Nolan has proven himself an adequate, if not an exceptional gamesman - he effusively praised Winborn and Carter before they were handed another team's jersey and a map to the exit.

Others say that the depth behind Barlow is thin at best with an injury prone Gore, an unproven Maurice Hicks, and rookie Michael Robinson.

Still others say that trading Barlow would cost us too much because of the hit to the salary cap. There, folks, is where I beg to differ. Trading Barlow would not cost much, although it would cost the 49ers depending on who they traded for. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, if a team trades a player after June 1st they are responsible for any pro-rated portions of the bonus due the year of the trade in addition to any salary the player earned. The unearned base salary is taken off the books and the remaining portion of the pro-rated bonus is accelerated on the next season's cap.

Say what? Basically, any money the player earned counts against the cap, in addition to any bonuses for this season. The rest of the bonus is charged to next year's cap.

Kevan Barlow's contract breaks down like this:

Year Salary Base Salary Signing Bonus Other Bonus
2006 $4,420,000 $2,500,000 $320,000 $1,600,000
2007 $5,171,000 $3,250,000 $1,920,000 0
2008 $5,920,000 $4,000,000 $1,920,000 0
Source: Niner Cap Hell

If Barlow were traded then the 49ers would be responsible for $1.92 million in pro-rated bonus owed to him this season. We would also be responsible for any salary earned by Barlow. If we presume that the player earns a check every game week then Barlow earns 2.5 million over 20 games (Including pre-season). So each game he earns $125,000.

If he were traded before the Raider game this weekend the 49ers would have to take a 1.92 million hit, but they would save $2,375,000 or 2.375 million dollars in base salary. (That's Barlow's full year salary minus the $125,000 game check). So the 49ers would actually save $455,000 if he were traded.

Then, next year the team would absorb the rest of the bonus, which would be 3.84 million in that dreaded dead money. Of course, though, the team would save the $3.25 million in salary owed to Barlow in 2007 so it would be a net cap hit of $590,000 in 2007.

Of course, any savings or cap hits would be offset or exacerbated by the contract the club absorbs when they receive a new player. So, in theory, if the player the 49ers traded for were owed a base salary of $455,000 then the team's cap savings for this year would be 0. Anything the player is owed beyond that would be extra cap space the team would use up.

The player the team trades for would probably be owed more than $455,000 this season which means that the team will likely use up more cap space than if they were to keep Barlow. The effect to the cap, though, would be negligible given it is a $100 million dollar payroll.

Regardless of the personnel implications, we know that at the very least, the cap will not stop Nolan from trading Barlow if a good deal were to come along.