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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Big deals: Matt Barrows analyzes 49ers’ financial outlook

May 31, 2024 at 1:16 PM

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Speculation surrounds the absence of Christian McCaffrey from the San Francisco 49ers' organized team activities (OTAs). Some wonder if the running back is holding out for more money, especially with the team's mandatory minicamp approaching.

It's worth noting that there has yet to be a confirmation that McCaffrey's absence is financially motivated. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio recently reported that, according to a source, it isn't. McCaffrey could very well show up next week, ready to hit the practice field.

When asked if McCaffrey's absence was business-related, head coach Kyle Shanahan responded, "I'm not sure if that is the case on any of those guys [who aren't here]. ... But it is all voluntary, so we'll see when it becomes mandatory."

Running backs coach Bobby Turner provided a cryptic response regarding McCaffrey's whereabouts, stating, "Physically, he's not here, but he's here in every other aspect. That's the business part, and I'm not getting into that."

Matt Barrows of The Athletic discussed the McCaffrey situation during an interview with Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game. Barrows noted that McCaffrey has had a busy offseason, including getting married, but added that "it sure sounds like" the running back might be holding out. Nonetheless, there has been no confirmation from the 49ers or McCaffrey's camp to suggest this.

This situation raises an interesting question. The 49ers are preparing to offer a significant long-term deal to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and will need to sign quarterback Brock Purdy to a massive deal next offseason. McCaffrey remains the highest-paid running back based on average salary, so an immediate pay raise might not have been expected, but it was probably on the team's agenda.

With several players earning top-tier salaries, how can the 49ers afford to keep their roster of playmakers together? What is the team's strategy? After all, NFL teams can't pay everyone top dollar.

Barrows believes the 49ers can maintain their core for at least one more year, using wide receiver Jauan Jennings' new deal as an example. His contract extension lowered his 2024 salary cap hit by adding void years to the backend.

"So redoing these deals actually provides some immediate relief," Barrows remarked. "The question is long-term, and I think the thinking is that a lot of this will take care of itself. There will be some guys who move on. [T] Trent Williams, no one knows how long he's going to play. It sure seems as if they're going to be saying goodbye to one of their big-time wide receivers next season, and in all likelihood, it's going to be Deebo Samuel.

"I don't know how many more years [FB] Kyle Juszczyk is going to play. So I think there will be some relief with people retiring, with people with outs in certain players' contracts and things like that."

In March, the 49ers had to make a tough decision with Arik Armstead, releasing the defensive lineman when an agreement to lower his salary could not be reached.

"But to me, it's not even 2025," Barrows continued. "I mean, it's '26, '27, which is where you're sort of kicking the can down the road with the thought that, okay, the salary cap goes up every year. We're banking on it going up a certain percentage for 2027.

"That has to happen. And so far, it's been a steady rise and a bigger rise than anticipated each year. That's what the 49ers are banking on."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Barrows below.

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