Free Agency Thoughts: San Francisco 49ers

Key Additions: Antoine Bethea ($5.3M per year), Blaine Gabbert ($2M), Brandon Lloyd ($1M)

Key Re-Signings: Anquan Boldin ($6M per year), Phil Dawson ($3.1M)

Key Losses: Donte Whitner (Browns), Tarell Brown (Raiders), Anthony Dixon (Bills)

Major Cuts: Carlos Rogers ($5.1M cap savings- June 1)

Free Agency Thoughts:

After years of having one of the most ideal salary cap situations in the NFL, the 49ers are finally beginning to feel some strains from success.  Nothing has changed with the way they manage the cap or structure their contracts, it’s just that when you build a team with this level of depth the cap is designed to not make it last. Eventually good draft picks become stars and good teams prepare accordingly for the time when the extensions come due.

Technically I probably should not even include Anquan Boldin in the discussion since he signed a week before free agency , but I thought  his contract was important to talk about. In order to keep Boldin, who is very important to the team, they had to use the voidable year provisions to spread out his cap charges. Normally San Francisco would want to work in the opposite direction and use player voids to accelerate cap charges, but for the time being they can not do that.

Losing Donte Whitner was inevitable and there was no way to even consider matching the $15.5 million he will earn over two years with the Browns. Antoine Bethea is a better value and will earn just over $10 million in two years, which is less than both Whitner and TJ Ward. I would have thought they would have pushed more for Ward, but I think the 49ers are confident that Bethea will improve further with a better defense in front of him. Both Whitner and Dashon Goldson benefitted from the same circumstances.  They can always walk away from Bethea next year as his guarantees don’t kick in until April 1.

I’m not sure I understand the trade for Blaine Gabbert. I understand looking for talent, but this is different than Colt McCoy in that Gabbert’s contract is guaranteed so it is not like he will take a pay cut. With only this year remaining under contract it’s not like they will recover trade value even if he had to come in due to an injury and played spectacularly ala Matt Flynn a few years back with Green Bay. I have to guess that they intend to extend him in the summer if they like what they see and make him the long term backup QB for the team.

Everyone else that was signed (besides Phil Dawson who is on a market contract) is basically on a no risk contract. Brandon Lloyd was out of the NFL last season and may not even make the team. He has a small workout bonus which is really the only investment in him. Jonathan Martin could have some upside though the media following may be a distraction for the team. Others like Kassim Osgood and Eric Wright are on no guarantee type contracts.

Overall Grade: C

There was no expectations for the 49ers this offseason and they pretty much delivered little. While I’m a little concerned about the void years on Boldin’s contract it’s just one deal and on a win now team sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to maximize your chances of winning. I tend to think that they wasted $2 million on Gabbert but in terms of backup salary its reasonable if they can make him passable. They will gain the cap space they need for potential extensions or carryover when Carlos Rogers comes off the books on June2.

  • Bob

    In the past you’ve mentioned that players often have split-salaries for situations such as spending the season on injured reserve. Are such split-salary terms also incorporated and used for PUP, NFI, and other such lists? If so, Would a large contract such as Bowman’s be likely to contain a split-salary?