Evaluating San Francisco's Salary Cap Situation After a Week of Free Agency

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterMarch 19, 2013

Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Many 49ers fans have been wondering why San Francisco wasn't more active the first week of free agency. It's quite simple really: Jim Harbaugh's club is loaded from top to bottom and isn't in the market for tier-one players right now. Additionally, they have the fifth-highest cap number in the NFL, according to Spotrac.

The cap ceiling in 2013 is set at $123 million for the season, and the Niners have used up $119,306,245 of that $123 million already. That means, from now until next February they only have $3,693,755 left to spend. A manageable number if the number of draft picks they had was seven or below, but 14 picks total won't be able to sign for $3,693,755.

However, all of us know that San Francisco won't actually keep all 17 draft picks. There's no way that many rookies would make the roster—it would be a stretch to think even 10 players would comfortably find their way onto the roster. Look for the 49ers to move their way up in the draft more than once so they can land prospects who fill the team's biggest areas of need. 

Yet general manager Trent Baalke has plenty of work to do before April 25 if he wants to get all of his incoming rookies under the salary cap ceiling. Aside from the contract restructurings of Mario Manningham and Parys Haralson, there are probably two or three more moves that need to be made to get to $5 million of free cap space. 

Some of you may be wondering why I eluded to $5 million in free cap space, and here's why. On average, that's the amount of money required to sign a draft class. Obviously, that number fluctuates either up or down based on the number of picks, and when they are made. But in general, $5 million is the cost of an average-sized draft class.

So, what moves will the 49ers need to make to ensure financial freedom before the draft? One of the first has to be the contract of Anquan Boldin. After he passes his physical, San Francisco will need to turn his one-year, $6 million deal into a multiyear deal. 

Doing so would help spread out the money and create a lower cap number. Of the $6 million he's making this year, none of it is guaranteed—ultimately leading me to believe that he would be willing to sign an extension if a portion of the money is guaranteed.

The extension would involve a lower base salary and possible escalators based on playing time and individual performances. Let's say Boldin was to receive $3 million this year in guaranteed money, that would still lower his total cap number by $3 million. If the 49ers plan on him being around for at least this year, they seemingly need to find common ground on his contract after he passes his physical. 

Another likely move could be the potential release of center Jonathan Goodwin. The 34-year-old offensive lineman is due $5,016,667 in 2013, and only $666,668 of it is guaranteed—likely making him the first player released after Boldin restructures his deal.

Those two moves alone could easily save around $7 million based on the contractual numbers of Q's deal. 

And for those of you who don't think Goodwin is a candidate for release because of his leadership skills, think again. According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney may get a shot at unseating the 12-year pro. Given the fact that San Francisco's organization likes to promote from within, this possibility could easily turn into a reality sooner rather than later. 

As team's embark on the second week of free agency, it's obvious that the 49ers still have some areas to clean up from a financial standpoint. However, I still believe that there are a couple of key players that they want to sign as well.

So from here on out, Baalke and Co. will be put under the microscope while managing San Francisco's salary cap.