After a season that saw the San Francisco 49ers fall back down to earth, what is their salary cap situation entering the 2021 NFL league year? Let’s take a look at the 49ers’ salary cap situation heading into 2021, and what options they have to open up more salary cap space in the coming weeks.
The 49ers project to be around $16.5 million under the salary cap in 2021
As of February 28th, the 2021 salary cap projects to be at least $185 million. The 49ers will carry over $1.9 million in cap space to the 2021 season. Therefore, the 49ers’ current salary cap projects to be $186.9 million.
As it stands, the 49ers have just over $160.5 million in commitments to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $9.9 million in dead money. Therefore, the 49ers are currently around $16.5 million under the salary cap heading into 2021.
To view the most up-to-date numbers for the San Francisco 49ers salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.
San Francisco has limited options for releasing players
The 49ers do not have many easy decisions to make if they want to open up salary cap space in 2021. With $16.5 million in cap space, there is no immediate urgency. However, if the 49ers want to make a splash in free agency, they may need to consider some potential moves.
Jimmy Garoppolo looks set to stay with the 49ers
The quickest way to open salary cap space in 2021 would have been for the 49ers to release Garoppolo. The quarterback is due to count $26.4 million against the cap in 2021. However, with limited prorated bonus money and a relatively small signing bonus, Garoppolo’s contract is somewhat team-friendly in terms of options.
With a signing bonus of just $7 million, Garoppolo has a meager $2.8 million in prorated bonus money remaining. The remainder of the salary cap number comes in non-guaranteed base salary, per game roster bonus, and a workout bonus. Therefore, by releasing Garoppolo, the 49ers would have saved $23.6 million in salary cap space in 2021.
However, the latest coming out of the San Francisco 49ers’ front office is that Garoppolo is set to remain with the team. Had they released him, the 49ers would likely have needed to use some of that cap space to bring in a starter, limiting the savings they would have made by releasing him.
Could Raheem Mostert have played his last snap in San Francisco?
Raheem Mostert is entering the final year of his deal with the 49ers. However, after missing eight games in 2020, the 49ers may decide to save salary cap space by moving on from Mostert in 2021. Mostert is due to count $3.6 million against the 49ers’ salary cap in 2021. However, if the 49ers were to release Mostert, they would save $3.15 million and leave just over $450,000 in dead money.
Who else could the 49ers look to release?
In terms of opening up more than $1 million in cap space, the 49ers’ options are somewhat limited. Linebacker Mark Nzeocha is due to earn $1.5 million if the 49ers pick up his option. If they do not, he would leave nothing in dead money on the 49ers’ 2021 salary cap.
Travis Benjamin signed a one-year contract with the 49ers ahead of the 2020 NFL season. Benjamin opted out of the season, however, meaning his contract rolls over into 2021. None of the money owed to Benjamin is guaranteed, though. Therefore, the 49ers would save $1.1 million in salary cap space if they were to release Benjamin.
The 49ers have players they can extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021
Given the limited options for general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers will need to look towards extensions and restructures to create cap space in 2021.
Which players could the 49ers consider extending this offseason?
The 49ers have two decisions to make on their offensive line in the coming weeks. One decision surrounds their first-round pick from 2018, Mike McGlinchey, who is due to enter the fourth year of his rookie deal.
The 49ers have three realistic options — extend McGlinchey, pick up his fifth-year option, or let McGlinchey play out the 2021 season and become a free agent. Since being drafted, McGlinchey has played 44 out of the 49ers’ 48 regular season games. Extending McGlinchey could save the 49ers around $1.8 million in 2021.
The other offensive lineman entering the final year with the 49ers is left guard Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson has been with the 49ers since 2017 and signed an extension with the team in 2018. His contract is due to void ahead of the 2022 league year. Extending Tomlinson this offseason could save the 49ers around $2.9 million in salary cap space.
The somewhat easy decision when it comes to an extension is 2018 third-round selection, Fred Warner. Warner has developed into one of the best linebackers in the league. Getting an extension done with Warner could save the 49ers around $2 million this offseason.
The 49ers are not short of options when it comes to restructures
When it comes to players on big-money deals with multiple years remaining, the 49ers have a number of options. The 49ers could look to restructure the Garoppolo contract. While that could save around $11.8 million in salary cap space for the 49ers in 2021, it would likely make it more difficult for the 49ers to move on from him next offseason.
Restructures for the likes of Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, Weston Richburg, and Jimmie Ward could save the 49ers a total of around $20 million in salary cap space in 2021. The largest of those would be a potential $9.5 million by restructuring the deal for Ford. However, with Ford already due to count over $21 million against the salary cap in 2022 and 2023, that would be a big decision for the 49ers.
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