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‘We’ll figure it out’: John Lynch believes 49ers’ championship-caliber roster is ‘sustainable’ despite salary-cap uncertainty

Aug 3, 2020 at 4:38 PM--

Earlier this year, NFL teams were expecting a significant salary-cap increase in 2021. A new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) had been struck, and future television contracts should have increased revenue opportunities, and with it, the ability to spend more on players.

Then COVID-19 happened.

Here we are, entering the sixth month of a pandemic. The timeframe is longer if you look at the worldwide impact. The coronavirus has impacted everyone's daily lives, and the sports world has not been immune to the effects.

There probably won't be fans in NFL stadiums. Teams that are allowed to have the public attend games will have to limit the number of spectators.

That will impact the NFL's bottom line. The salary cap isn't likely to see an increase next season, as the financial impact of the pandemic is spread across multiple years.

The San Francisco 49ers are hoping to get a contract extension done for All-Pro tight end George Kittle. Then there are several other key players scheduled to hit free agency next year—names like Richard Sherman and Trent Williams. The list is long. Very long.

How are the 49ers, coming off a Super Bowl appearance, supposed to maintain a championship-caliber roster with so much uncertainty in future salary-cap numbers?

"It's an interesting question and one we've been, I think everybody in the league, has been trying to wrap their arms around," general manager John Lynch responded on Monday. "I think everybody in this league, all you crave is certainty in terms of wanting to know the rules. What are we dealing with? So, it's been interesting in that I think we all knew the potential that things could change dramatically and right down to the deal that the owners and the [NFLPA] came to, even then, we were still waiting for specifics. And we still don't know those.

"Is it going to be a challenge? Absolutely. For us, I think the biggest challenges -- we were set up with a really good roster, but we had set it up such that we really felt it was sustainable. I think it's still sustainable. We're going to have to get creative, though, and we've got to figure some things out."

Sudden financial uncertainty is difficult to deal with in a league in which the salary cap could typically be predicted from year to year with fair accuracy. The good news is that the 49ers aren't the only ones that have to navigate these uncharted waters.

"You weigh that, along with everything else that this offseason brought in terms of these new protocols and everything," Lynch continued. "But it has left for a lot more uncertainty than you're used to in this league. That's been difficult.

"I guess, if there's any good news, it's that everybody else wasn't immune to that same uncertainty. We're all playing from the same rules. Are certain teams better positioned to stomach that? Probably, but we'll figure it out. We're confident that we will."

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