Latest Salary Cap Breakdown for San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers don't have a lot of glaring needs entering the 2013 offseason, and it's a good thing because they don't have the cap room to afford several fixes.
A month ago, ESPN's John Clayton reported that the 49ers have $3.9 million of cap space entering the 2013 season.
That's not a lot of wiggle room.
With decisions on impending free agents, such as Dashon Goldson and Delanie Walker, looming large, general manager Trent Baalke might have to get creative—as in restructuring deals and cutting players.
Let's break down the salary cap situation at every position.
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Whereas most contending teams are paying at least $10 million annually for their starting quarterback, the 49ers will only be paying a fraction of that number in 2013.
Colin Kaepernick can't restructure his contract until after his third season, which means he'll only be making a little more than $1 million this season.
However, I doubt Smith plays for the Red and Gold next year.
If the 49ers trade or release him before April 1, they'll save $7.5 million. They don't have enough cap room to spend that type of money on a backup.
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San Francisco shouldn't have any salary cap issues with its running backs.
Both LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter are on relatively inexpensive rookie deals.
The trio of backs should get the vast majority of the carries next year and be very productive.
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The only playoff-contributing wide receiver who will assuredly be back next season is Michael Crabtree.
After terrorizing defenses late in the regular season and then the playoffs, Crabtree is probably due for a lucrative contract extension. His base salary is $4.5 million in 2013.
Randy Moss is an unrestricted free agent, and he's said he'd like to play for one more year. And considering Jim Harbaugh reportedly wants him back, Moss seems like a solid candidate to be re-signed to a cheap deal.
The most intriguing cap decision will be on Mario Manningham. After tearing his ACL and PCL late in December, Manningham is no sure thing to return to form next season.
The 49ers may be better off cutting him, saving $2.35 million in cap room (via Niners Nation), and looking for another quality wide receiver in the draft or free agency.
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Vernon Davis has three years left on a six-year, $42.7 million contract. He showed in the playoffs why he's worth every penny, catching 12 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers have a tough decision to make on Delanie Walker, who is an unrestricted free agent. He led the team in drops, and San Francisco could look for a younger, more explosive second tight end in the draft.
If Walker is willing to come back on a short, cheap deal, the 49ers will likely re-sign him and use their draft picks on more pressing needs.
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Every starting member of San Francisco's offensive line is under contract.
The only player who is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of 2013 season is 34-year-old Jonathan Goodwin. Although getting a younger center is on the wish list, San Francisco should be in no hurry to break up this unit, which was one the best in football.
Don't expect any major extensions or cuts to the 49ers offensive line.
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2013 is a contract year for Justin Smith.
The Cowboy's injury late in the season changed San Francisco's defense. Without his pass-rushing prowess on display, the 49ers struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks.
If the 33-year-old can return to pre-injury form in 2013, he'd be a strong candidate to be re-signed.
The more pressing issue along the defensive line is at nose tackle, as Isaac Sopoaga is about to be a free agent.
There are three reasons why I believe Sopoaga will not be re-signed by San Francisco.
First, he's a 31 years old with a lot of mileage.
Second, the 49ers feature a lot nickel packages in which they take out their nose tackle and add a defensive back, and therefore don't want to spend money on one.
Third, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is a master of finding and nurturing talented linemen who will come at a cheaper price than Sopoaga.
Ricky Jean Francois, also an impending free agent, could be re-signed to fill the void.
San Francisco could also target a nose tackle early in the draft.
San Francisco's other defensive line starter, Ray McDonald, is under contract and in no danger of being cut after a productive 2012 season.
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In the playoffs, the 49ers pass defense was burned time and again for three main reasons: lack of a pass rush, poor cornerback play and blown coverages by safeties.
The lack of pass rush relates directly to Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, who combined to record one postseason sack.
It's possible that Smith (who had 19.5 sacks in the regular season) and Brooks ran out of gas from being overused.
Clearly, the 49ers need some pass-rushing depth. Smith and Brooks are both under contract and expected to start for the foreseeable future, but San Francisco's missing edge-rushing piece might already be on the roster.
Parys Haralson has one year left on his deal, and I suspect he'll be retained despite missing the entire 2012 season with an arm injury.
If the 49ers want a younger, more talented backup pass-rusher, they could cut Haralson and draft one.
As for the inside linebackers, Pro Bowlers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are both currently in the first half of seven-year deals.
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As bad as Chris Culliver was in Super Bowl XLVII, he's not the San Francisco corner most likely to be cut.
That distinction belongs to Carlos Rogers, who was easily the worst of San Francisco's cornerback trio throughout 2012.
The 49ers could save a boatload of money by cutting Rogers, who has three years left on his contract and a $7.3 million cap hit for the 2013 season.
Tarell Brown will be in the last year of his five-year rookie deal in 2013. San Francisco should look to re-sign him as soon as possible, and if that means cutting Rogers, so be it.
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The most intriguing offseason storyline for the 49ers is Dashon Goldson's future.
According to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com), Goldson said he does not want to be franchised again and that he's earned a long-term contract.
Locking up Goldson ought to be a major priority for the 49ers, but if he demands too much, Trent Baalke and Co. might have to consider letting him walk.
Without much cap room to begin with and potential contract negotiations with Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith coming after the 2013 season, the 49ers may need to save money and draft a free safety instead.
My guess is San Francisco gives Goldson a long-term deal.
Meanwhile, Donte Whinter will enter the final year of his contract in 2013. Whitner simply doesn't have the top-end speed needed to be a ball-hawking safety.
In a perfect world, San Francisco will draft a safety, and he'll learn from Whitner in 2013 before taking the veteran's spot to start the 2014 season.
One way or another, I have a suspicion that Whitner will be playing for a new team in 2014.
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It's anyone's guess what the 49ers decide to do with David Akers.
As dreadful as he was in 2012, there isn't an obviously better kicker option out there.
Akers has one year left on a three-year, $9 million deal.
Andy Lee and Brian Jennings are both under contract and arguably the best at what they do.