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How can the 49ers clear up cap space?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Mar 11, 2022 at 10:15 AM--

Cap space, cap space, cap space.

It's the conundrum that haunts teams every offseason—I'm looking at you, New Orleans—prior to the new league year starting. In 2022, March 16th is the start of the new NFL season.

By that date, every team must be under the pre-determined salary cap for the season, which the NFL announced was $208.2 million in 2022, a steep incline from the $182.5 million number that the NFL set as the salary cap for the 2021 season.

Despite the significant increase in allotted cap space for teams, the San Francisco 49ers are still currently over the salary cap by $6-9 million, which includes the signings of quarterback Nate Sudfeld, defensive linemen Maurice Hurst and Kevin Givens, offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, and running back JaMycal Hasty over the last few days.

So, where can the 49ers clear up cap space ahead of the new league year?


There's one obvious move: the trade of veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which, almost certainly, should come before the start of the league year, unless the team elects to cut him.

If the 49ers trade Garoppolo, they will clear $25.5 million in salary-cap space, placing them well under the $208.2 million limit.

If the 49ers cut Garoppolo, they will clear only $18 million in salary-cap space, as the veteran has a $7.5 million injury guarantee for 2022, though there is offset language that would allow the team to get that money back if Garoppolo signs a contract with a new team for the same amount or higher in 2022.


This should be the bread-and-butter of the 49ers' offseason, as multiple key rotational pieces could be extended to lower their 2021 cap hits.

The most obvious move is safety Jimmie Ward, who has a cap hit of $12.94 million this season and will be a free agent in 2023, although he has three more void years following 2022. Ward is a priority because it can save space this offseason and place the 49ers in a good position for the future because they wouldn't have to deal with the dead money from the void years, which came via a restructure of Ward's contract last offseason.

A Ward extension could lower his cap hit to $6.63 million this season, saving the 49ers $6.30 million in cap space for 2022, per Over The Cap.

Additionally, the 49ers could extend cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who had a fantastic, underrated season after stepping in for Jason Verrett as San Francisco's top cornerback in 2021.

An extension would lower Moseley's cap hit from $6.26 million to $3.78 million, saving $2.77 million in 2022 cap space while locking up a cornerstone of the 49ers' secondary.

Along that line, the 49ers could extend defensive end Samson Ebukam, given his $8.25 million cap hit for 2022. Ebukam exploded on the scene in the second half of the season after a sluggish start, paving the way for a strong 2022 season.

An extension would lower Ebukam's cap hit from $8.25 million to $4.28 million, saving $3.97 million in 2022 cap space while keeping Ebukam through his prime at an affordable price.

Should the 49ers extend all three of these players, and they should, San Francisco would save a total of $13.04 million in cap space for 2022, which should help them retain key free agents while also pursuing players on the open market.


A method that the Saints love to use to create cap space, restructuring contracts, could be in the realm of possibilities for the 49ers.

Restructuring contracts moves money towards the tail end of contracts, as teams convert a player's base salary into a signing bonus, which they can spread equally over the remaining years of a contract to preserve cap space.

While I'm not necessarily a fan of pushing money down the line, the 49ers could benefit from doing so with one specific player: defensive lineman Arik Armstead.

Armstead has a cap hit of $20 million in 2022, which is deserving for a player of his caliber, but a significant portion of San Francisco's 2022 cap.

Restructuring Armstead's deal would lower his cap hit from $20 million to potentially $10.15 million, saving $9.85 million in 2022 cap space.

Tight end George Kittle could be a potential restructure candidate, as he holds a cap hit of $16.01 million for the 2022 season. His contract consistently gets more expensive towards the tail end of his deal, which already is a premium at the tight end position, so it wouldn't entirely make sense for San Francisco to limit their future financials, especially with Kittle's known injury history.

However, for reference, restructuring Kittle could lower his cap hit from $16.01 million to $8.13 million, saving $7.89 million in 2022 cap space.


There aren't many potential cut-candidates on the 49ers roster apart from defensive end Dee Ford, who's played in just 18 games throughout his three seasons as a member of the organization.

Ford currently holds a cap hit of $11.54 million for 2022, which could decrease to $9.54 million should the 49ers designate him as a post-June 1st cut.

If San Francisco believes there is any chance of garnering any production from the oft-injured defensive end in 2022, they could keep him, as they'd save just $2 million in cap space.

But, if they've had enough with Ford and his recurring injuries, they could allocate that money elsewhere and move forward in 2022.

Compiling the overall savings, should the 49ers elect to cut Ford and restructure Kittle, San Francisco could clear as much as $58.28 million in 2022.

But, even without a couple of those moves, the 49ers should be able to clear up a significant amount of money in order to bring in free agents that can help them push towards Super Bowl contention in 2022.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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