It’s not every year that a team makes a complete 180-degree flip, going from 4-12 to a playoff team. Could the 49ers be one of the rare teams to pull it off? And if not, how long before the roster gets turned over, again?
With talent added across the depth chart over the past two seasons, the San Francisco 49ers are in an exciting place. It’s time to show out or shut up, and the 49ers will look to show out this upcoming season. Perhaps the most successful thing San Francisco has done is the structuring of their big money contracts. Despite what seems like signing guys to big money deals, they can get out of said contracts easily.
With the team at a point where they need to live up to the hype or break it down, a rebuild could be coming sooner than many expect. It may not be a bad thing either.
Breaking down contract negotiations
Take Jimmy Garoppolos contract for example. Last offseason, Garoppolo signed a hefty contract that made him one of the highest paid quarterbacks at the time, despite only starting about six games in his entire career.
Taking a deep dive into the contract opens holes many don’t know about, however. Garoppolo signed a five year, $137.5 million deal. While it might seem like a lot, the contract was backloaded and contains a team out in 2020. This out would only cost the team $4.2 million. So essentially, if we see Garoppolo struggle this upcoming season, the 49ers could cut strings quickly and begin the search for their next franchise quarterback.
Garoppolo isn’t the only player with a contract like this. In fact, most of the free agent contracts are structured similarly. Tevin Coleman’s contract is another just like that. He signed a two year, $8.5 million contract. His contract comes with an out in 2020 as well, which would provide a $0 dead cap hit and only cause the 49ers to pay out one year, $3.6 million of the contract.
On the defensive side of the football, similar style contracts were made with Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander. Alexander signed a four year, $54 million deal. Again, his contract comes with an out in 2020 that would put the team in only $3 million dead cap. Ford was signed to a five year, $85 million deal. His contract comes with an out in 2021 with only $4.8 million dead cap.
What this means
If there’s one thing Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have been, it is active in free agency. Their approach is unique in a way, however. What happens quite often in free agency is a team will overpay for a player, later regretting the contract given out. The 49ers decided to eliminate the possibility of all regrets. By putting potential outs in your free agent contracts after a season or two, you keep them always competing and fighting to stay on the roster.
After this season, the team has a real decision to make. If Garoppolo comes out and underperforms significantly, bringing the team to a high draft pick, a decision will have to be made on his future. With an easy out, Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco could come to an end as quickly as it began. If you cut Garoppolo, it frees up options to save money elsewhere as well.
With a losing season, you could see the San Francisco 49ers blow it all up and rebuild once more. Hopefully, the team performs to its best, which will likely lead to them picking up all player’s contract options. While the team is certainly hoping for the best, they have a backup plan in case things go south quickly. With a potentially deep quarterback class on the horizon, the teams rebuild could be quicker than usual, assuming it comes to that.