Analyzing the San Francisco 49ers' Next Big Contract Decisions
The San Francisco 49ers accomplished one major piece of business by signing Colin Kaepernick to a long-term contract. The two sides agreed to a six-year, $126 million deal, but only $61 million of that is guaranteed.
In reality, Kaepernick did the 49ers a favor, as this is a team-friendly contract. The odds of this contract running its course are very remote, as the likelihood is that they will renegotiate a new deal in three or four years as long as Kaepernick is playing well.
General manager Trent Baalke, team president Paraag Marathe and owner Jed York can now turn their attention to other major contract decisions.
Unfortunately, there will be several tough decisions to make over the coming year. Several players are nearing the end of their contracts or are wanting to renegotiate their deals.
It is entirely likely that some of these players will not be 49ers after their contracts expire. Let's take a deeper look at the financial outlook for each player.
Michael Crabtree joined the 49ers in 2009 and almost immediately was at odds with the team's management over his contract. He held out and started the season late.
Crabtree's contract expires following the 2014 season, and he wants to be paid like one of the top receivers in the league. The question is whether he is one of the top receivers and how big a deal does Crabtree want.
Crabtree had his best year in 2012, as he caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. This was the only time he had over 1,000 yards receiving.
In 2013, Crabtree missed the majority of the season, although he returned for the final five regular-season games and the 49ers' three playoff contests. During the regular season, Crabtree had 19 catches for 284 yards and one touchdown.
The issue is not whether the 49ers want Crabtree because undoubtedly they do. However, the key question is how much is Crabtree going to demand?
If Crabtree wants some huge megadeal along the lines of Calvin Johnson's seven-year, $113 million contract with nearly $47 million guaranteed, he can start packing his bags now.
The 49ers will not pay Crabtree anything near that nor should they.
Crabtree has frequently come across as a player who has a big ego and is somewhat of a prima donna. It would not be a surprise if he asks for a huge deal and ends up leaving after the 2014 season.
It appears as though the likelihood that Crabtree stays with the 49ers beyond 2014 is about 50-50.
Vernon Davis did not participate in the 49ers' voluntary OTAs, as he is trying to renegotiate his contract.
Davis has two years remaining on his five-year deal, which has a base salary of $4.7 million. When Davis signed the contract three years ago, he received a $10 million signing bonus.
Although a player should try to get whatever he can from a team, he should also honor the contract he signed. Had Davis been injured after he signed his deal and never played again, the 49ers still would have paid him that hefty signing bonus.
There is risk on both sides, and a contract is something both sides should honor without threatening holdouts or anything like that.
In Davis' case, he is the third-highest paid tight end in the league, so he is already in an elite class for his position. The 49ers would be wise to not renegotiate his contract at this time.
When the 2015 season ends, Davis will also be nearly 32 years of age. Giving him more big money or extending his deal would not be a smart move by the 49ers.
Davis is still a very productive player. In 2013, he made the second Pro Bowl of his career.
This past season, Davis had 52 receptions for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns. Davis is one of Colin Kaepernick's favorite targets in the red zone and is a very valuable player. In addition to his pass-catching skills, Davis is a very good blocker and helps the 49ers running game.
Even so, based on the fact the 49ers have Davis under contract through the 2015 season, they have no reason to do anything right now.
Although Davis did not attend the 49ers' voluntary OTAs, Bill Williamson of ESPN.com reports that Davis will attend the mandatory minicamp next week. Davis will avoid being fined, assuming he attends, which is the best thing for him and the 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers have two starting guards, Mike Iupati and Alex Boone, both with contract issues.
Iupati's contract expires at the end of the 2014 season, and although he is a very good player, there might not be enough money to keep him around. In the NFL, it's the tackles that typically make the big money, so it's unlikely the 49ers will want to pay both Iupati and Boone.
Iupati is coming off a broken fibula, which he suffered in the NFC title game. The 49ers are hoping Iupati will be ready by the beginning of the season.
He is due to make just under $3 million this year, while Boone is making $2 million. Based on their play this past season, Boone may be the better player and have more upside.
This is a numbers game, and Iupati may very well be the odd man out. The only thing that could save him is if Boone burns his bridges with the 49ers by holding out and being a malcontent.
Alex Boone's play has been on the rise, while fellow guard Mike Iupati has not been as dominating. Both players are 27 years of age, and both are offensive guards.
The 49ers are very unlikely to pay both the big money they want.
Boone has a base salary of $2 million this year and $1.2 million in 2015. He skipped all of the 49ers' voluntary OTAs because of this contract dispute. Boone wants to renegotiate his deal now, with two years remaining.
David Fucillo of NinersNation.com reports that Boone is unlikely to attend the 49ers' mandatory minicamp. This tactic is likely to backfire because Boone will be fined for every day he misses.
The 49ers will be much more amenable to renegotiating Boone's contract after this season when he only has one year left on his current deal.
Boone would be wise to participate in the mandatory camp, which is exactly what Vernon Davis said he would do. Failure to attend will cost Boone a lot of money and won't enable him to get his way anyway.
The 49ers do not like to be strong-armed, which is the current tactic Boone is trying to employ. It would make more sense for Boone to play out this year and renegotiate his contract after the upcoming season.
Unless Boone is so disruptive that the 49ers would rather let him go and keep Iupati, it is extremely likely Boone will command an even better deal following the 2014 season.
Frank Gore is still a very good running back and has been the heart and soul of the 49ers offense for many years.
In 2013, in 276 carries, Gore rushed for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns. His average of 4.1 yards per carry was the lowest of his career. This could be Gore slowing down just a step as well as the offensive line not opening holes for him.
Gore is 31 years of age and has a base salary of $3.3 million for this season.
The 49ers made a bit of a statement in the draft when they selected running back Carlos Hyde with their second-round pick. In addition to Kendall Hunter, the 49ers also have Marcus Lattimore, who sat out all of last year rehabbing his knee.
If Hyde and Lattimore prove they can play, it is quite possible that 2014 will be the last year we see Frank Gore in a 49ers uniform.
The only things that could result in Gore staying in San Francisco following the 2014 season would be if Hyde or Lattimore suffered a severe injury. Gore will also likely need to accept a pay cut to stay with the 49ers.
This is why it is imperative for the 49ers to win this year. Their window of opportunity with this current core of players is rapidly closing.
Justin Smith is still an extremely solid player. His work ethic and constant hustle on the field are exemplary and something the younger 49er players can benefit from watching.
Smith has two years remaining on his contract. This year, Smith will have a base salary of $3.15 million, but if the 49ers cut him, the cap hit would be over $6 million. With this large a cap figure, Smith is safe this year.
Looking ahead to next year is when things start getting dicey. If the 49ers choose to let Smith go, the cap hit would be down to under $2.2 million.
Smith will be 36 years of age in late September 2015, which is early in that season. This is when the real decision must be made about Smith. Do the 49ers offer him an extension?
If he hopes to stay with the 49ers beyond the 2015 season, Smith would likely need to take a pay cut.
Aldon Smith is a tremendous talent and one of the best defensive players on the 49ers' roster.
However, Smith has had numerous run-ins with the law and has not been able to stay out of trouble.
The biggest question the 49ers face is whether to give Smith a lucrative, long-term deal.
GM Trent Baalke picked up the option on Smith for the 2015 season. This calls for a base salary of just under $10 million if he remains with the 49ers through the 2015 season.
Exercising the option was more of a procedural move but can be broken whenever the 49ers see fit.
If Smith stays out of trouble we could see the 49ers give him an extension following the 2014 season. There is no need to do anything now, as the procedural move by the 49ers buys them some time to watch and evaluate Smith.
The jury is still out when it comes to the giving Smith a big-money, long-term deal. The answer will really be based on how Smith comports himself over the coming year.