Best & Worst Contracts 2014: San Francisco 49ers


Examining the best and worst from the NFC runner up San Francisco 49ers

Best Contract: Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis

The 49ers are one of the more difficult teams to select the best deal on, not because there are so few, but because there are so many. For years San Francisco was the best run front office in the NFL and in many ways that continues to this day. The 49ers are always proactive with their contracts and with using salary cap space.

Last year I named Joe Staley as the best contracts on the team, but there were recently some changes to his contract that kind of changed my thinking on him. The largest benefit of the Staley contract was the absence of prorated money in the contract to go along with low salary charges. While the charges are still low compared to others at the position, it now becomes more difficult to move on in the future, as soon as the first option year is exercised. I think its still a good deal and it avoids any possible holdout issues in the future but in the end it was enough of a change to make me go with Anthony Davis as the best deal on the team.

Davis had signed a contract extension with the 49ers in 2013, coming off a season when he was probably regarded as one of the top two or three right tackles in the NFL. This was another of those proactive extensions by the 49ers in which they signed a player with multiple years remaining on his current contract to try to get the best terms and structure possible in the deal.  Davis would get locked up at $6.5 million a season all the way through 2019.

While that may not sound like the best contract in the world, since he is the second highest paid right tackle in the NFL, the way they get to that figure is what lands him there. The 49ers paid Davis $7.5 million in a signing bonus, which was, for the most part, the only truly guaranteed portion of the contract.  That figure on a yearly basis or percentage of contract guaranteed ranks around 10th. All his other guarantees don’t kick in until April 1 of the season in question, giving the 49ers ample time to move on.

Davis has millions of dollars tied into health, participation, and motivation. In each year of the contract Davis has $1 million in roster bonuses that are paid out for each game in which he is healthy enough to play. That’s around 15% of the contractual value. His base salary can de-escalate by $1.25 million if he fails to participate in workouts during the offseason or is not motivated enough to keep at his healthy playing weight. While such bonuses are not out of the ordinary for linemen, they are not ordinary at this amount.   This is around 19% of the contract value.

So you are looking at a player who has over 1/3 of the contract potentially as risk with dead money charges such that he could be released at anytime after the 2015 season without too much worry. His cap charges are more or less steady in the $6 million range so that he’ll never really burden the teams’ salary cap. These types of deals will almost always get the best value out of a player with the threat of a paycut or release always hanging over the head of the player.


Worst Contract: Anquan Boldin

Anquan Boldin

This was an easy one for me to select as Anquan Boldin’s contract sticks out like a sore thumb on the roster. It has nothing to do with the quality of player that Boldin has been, but the type of contract that they signed him to. San Francisco’s usual MO is to craft relatively salary cap friendly and team friendly contracts. Twice we have recently seen them do that with important veteran players when they worked out contracts for running back Frank Gore and defensive end Justin Smith. I just don’t see any of the same with Boldin, especially in the roster bonus category where he only has $500,000 per year tied to being active. The others had at least three times that much tied to being active.

The pricing point they used for Boldin was that of Wes Welker at $6M a year, except Boldin is two years older than Welker was at the time he signed his contract. Welker had also been the more productive player, albeit on a very different offense than Boldin had played with in Baltimore for most of the past few years, leading into his contract. Boldin had a terrific year in 2013 with San Francisco, but with the expectation of a healthy Michael Crabtree, expecting similar numbers would not have seemed logical and that was before they traded for Steve Johnson to take away targets as well.

The big reason this one stands out, though, is the fact that they had to resort to the voidable year clause to make the contract work within the confines of their salary cap. These are techniques that maybe would have been associated with the 49ers over 15 years ago, but not today. I guess it was the only way they felt they could keep him under the salary cap this season without hassle. So now they are locked into either a $6.9 million active cap charge in 2015 or a $3.6M dead cap charge.  If he plays out the two year contract he still leaves the team with $2.7M on the cap in 2016.

While this is nowhere near as bad as other teams’ worst contracts, this is still a deal where the 49ers could have gotten a stronger contract if they waited him out a bit longer and getting the best deal possible is something many of us have grown to expect from this organization.

2013’s Best and Worst 49ersContracts:

2013 Best Contract: Joe Staley (Received extension with 49ers)

2013 Worst Contract: Carlos Rogers (Released)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!




Looking Closer at the Colin Kaepernick Contract Extension


Pro Football Talk earlier today broke down the $126 million contract extension given to 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. That gives us the ability to better understand the work that went into negotiating the contract. You can either read the PFT piece for the full breakdown or view his cap page at OTC for the cap hits, but the cliff notes version is as follows:

The full guarantee on the contract is around $13 million with $60 million being an injury only guarantee

Those injury guarantees vest on April 1 of each season

$12 million in total value is tied to per game active roster bonuses.

$12 million in total value is tied to relatively high percentages of playing time and various honors or team success

The basics of the deal go back to the point I made in the Kaepernick piece I wrote last season that the higher the overall contract value the more team friendly it would be in terms of structure and escape points, which is exactly what this contract is.

The 49ers could have used the franchise tag on Kaepernick to hold his rights for next year. This year the tag was around $17 million so next year it would likely have been around $18.5 million and fully guaranteed once signed. They also could have used the exclusive franchise tag which would have cost closer to $20 million assuming the Dallas Cowboys again restructure the contract of Tony Romo in 2015.

For cap purposes the 49ers will basically settle in between those numbers, spending an additional $19.4 million in cap room in 2014 and 2015 on their QB of which very little is guaranteed and $2 million is tied to incentives, essentially bringing him to the original tag numbers. If this went catastrophically bad in 2014 the 49ers could release Kaepernick next season and absorb just a $9.8 million dead money charge or immediately discuss a restructured deal. In essence that would mean they paid him an additional $12 million for his work in 2012 and 2013. While in practice we know this is not happening, it is a benefit to the team. Front end cash flows for Kaepernick are very low compared to his peers.

For Kaepernick to get the large contract value that he wanted there were things he had to give up, primarily guaranteed money and normal injury protections. This is a risky move for the player and a big bet on himself. He has catastrophic injury protection for career ending type injuries but small injuries can cost him millions.

The true guarantees in his contract are far less than what the number 1 pick in the draft would earn. My guess is if he came in at a much lower annual number (say $18 to $19 million a year) he would have received $40 million or so in fully guaranteed salary. As a comparison players like Jay Cutler received $38.5 million in fully guaranteed salary while Aaron Rodgers leads the way with $54 million. Even the last eras great young class of QBs to be extended (the 2004 draft class) all got over $30 million in full guarantees.

So I would say Kaepernick gave up $27 million in full protection. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you are confident in your abilities to remain a dynamic player. If you are a good player the guarantees mean nothing outside of injury protection since the team is more than happy to pay you. If you are the type to be changed by the big contract then giving up those guarantees is a problem.  For Colin as long as he lasts out the 2015 and 2016 seasons then the guarantee issue will be moot.

Kaepernick also had to give a great deal of team protection in the event of injury.  He has $2 million per year in roster bonuses tied to being active. That is a huge figure. The only other player at the position to have numbers that high is Cutler who has them at $2.5 million a year, but those are not included in the first three years of his contract. For Kaepernick they are there from day 1. The only other notable player to have such roster bonuses is Rodgers at just $600,000 per year in every year of his contract.

Now the 49ers do seem to make the gameday roster bonuses mandatory in their contracts as do the Packers, but the difference in amounts is staggering. At the least we would say he made a $1.4 million concession with this structure. It might be even more.  Most likely he’ll miss a few games over the course of his career as most do, but hopefully it won’t be significant time for his sake.

(Edit: I had mis-read the makeup of the contract for Kaepernick when initially writing this. This is now fixed. H/T to Jakob for pointing it out).

The $2 million a year in de-escalator clauses is also an unheard of thing for the position. It is basically a way to inflate the full value of the contract and reward him if he was to appear in a Super Bowl.  It’s basically a built in incentive that allows him to not miss out on the big contract he would receive if he won the Super Bowl.

Those concessions all benefit the team as does the initial cash flow of the contract, but as we move into year 3 the contract takes a turn to benefit Kaepernick, as it should if he is perfectly healthy and continues to develop into an All Pro type player. The three year total on the contract matches Joe Flacco’s take of $62 million. I am sure that is no accident as Flacco I think is recognized as the baseline number for a good QB whose money was mainly earned in the postseason on a successful team.  In that year Kaepernick breaks away from the Romo’s and Cutler’s of the world (who have better cash flows early on) in terms of earnings.

Starting in his 4th season (assuming again health throughout his contract and a big 2014 season) he will begin to distance himself from Flacco. Surpassing Flacco seemed to be the big concession from San Francisco on the contract if it plays out perfectly. Despite the higher annual value on the deal he will never surpass Matt Ryan in real earnings. Matt Ryan will earn $103.75 million in 5 years while Kaepernick maxes out at $102.6 million. In a league where QB salaries are built on postseason success that is a big one for San Francisco as Ryan’s teams have been a disappointment in the playoffs and were eliminated by Kaepernick’s team two years ago.  Rodgers makes $110 million in the same timeframe so Kaepernick lags greatly there.

Here is the full yearly cash flow breakdown across the position that illustrates when the Kaepernick deal has the potential to make him one of the biggest earners

Kaepernick cash

I would not expect this type of contract to become a standard in the NFL. I think the Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez models of higher guarantees on short term “evaluation” extensions are probably more in line with what teams would prefer for their younger QB’s. This contract to me is more about creative ways to make a contract that makes both sides happy.

San Francisco gets their guy at pretty reasonable figures during the “evaluation” period with outs coming every season and virtually nothing guaranteed. They are protected from injury. Kaepernick gets the huge money if his “evaluation period” goes well and he does get $60 million safeguarded from a career ender.

If we treat the $2 million de-escalators as incentives then we bring the total down to a more reasonable $19 million a season. If he never makes it back to the Super Bowl or gets the honors brought his way the cash flows are much closer to Romo and Cutler than the Super Bowl winners.

Kaepernick cash 2

I would not picture Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson having to use this type of contract structure. RGIII with his injury potential might have to look more at something like this and Carolina can argue with Cam Newton about the same. The interesting thing is that Kaepernick has never really been hurt, it’s more like an assumption that he could get hurt with his playing style.

Often we hear in contracts that the team is paying for what they think the player will be. In this case it’s more the player showing a real belief in who he will be. They knew the 49ers did not want distractions this year going into what is probably the last year that they can afford a deep roster so it made for a good time to make a deal that makes both sides happy.




Colin Kaepernick Lands Huge Extension from 49ers


The 49ers and Colin Kaepernick agreed to a massive contract extension that puts him in the upper echelon of the position. Per reports by Albert Breer the base value of the contract is worth $19 million a season with a maximum value of $21 million per season. Supposedly the deal contains $60 million in guarantees but the fully guaranteed amount I would be certain was less than this.

Last year I though he would max out at $18 million based on contract history of limited sample size players. So when I first heard $21 million a year I was pretty stunned. $19 million is a bit more reasonable, but I’m still surprised at the figure. San Francisco is one of the stronger salary cap managed teams in the NFL and usually seems to come out ahead with their approaches to early extensions. While we may find that to be the case when the full details of the contract structure come out I wanted to examine some thoughts as to how a player with just one season and a half of play could be paid so much.

You Don’t Have to Be Great to Earn Great Money

There was a time when Peyton Manning was basically the standard bearer for all things salary in the NFL.  When Eli Manning won his first Super Bowl there seemed to be a bigger shift that postseason success and “potential” far outweighed regular season play when it came to contracts.  Then this year it went a step further and simply being deemed a “franchise QB” with years to go was enough to bring in a huge contract.

In July, Matt Stafford signed an extension worth $17.67 million a year with $41.5 million fully guaranteed. Stafford hadn’t really won anything in his time in the NFL. He had some big numbers due to volume of use but overall he was more or less an average QB. This past January the Chicago Bears signed Jay Cutler to a deal worth $18 million a year with $38 million guaranteed. Not only has Cutler never been a big winner, but he has not been a big statistical producer and he is always injured. For Cutler to receive that contract was really amazing.

As you look at the field of QB’s in the NFL there are other mediocre type QB’s who will soon be eligible for an extension. Alex Smith of the Chiefs is the biggest one and a real concern for the 49ers. The 49ers had a choice to make between Smith and Kaepernick in 2012 when Smith was healthy enough to reclaim his job following an injury. The organization chose Kaepernick and traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs.

You can read my detailed look at Smith, but in light of the Cutler deal it’s a very real possibility that Smith could earn $18 million or more in his next contract. If Smith earned that money Kaepernick would clearly argue that he has to get paid more than Smith since the 49ers already agreed that Kaepernick was the superior player. Other names like Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and Sam Bradford could also have their numbers called at anytime this year.  All could push the market even further.

The Young QB and the Big Spending Organizations

A second concern for San Francisco comes from outside the organization, specifically their rivals in Seattle. Kaepernick and Russell Wilson will likely be locked together for their careers as long as both continue to do well. Wilson is extension eligible as soon as week 17 ends this season. Seattle has already shown a willingness to break the bank for Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Wilson, who already has one Super Bowl, would be next and based on the track record of the Seahawks it could be a record setter. That becomes a problem for the 49ers even if they don’t win the Super Bowl this season.

Other players eligible in 2015 include Andrew Luck of the Colts, Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, Nick Foles of the Eagles, and Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins. The Colts like to throw money around at players, believe strongly in Luck, and have the cap room to do whatever kind of extension they want. The Redskins have always done some crazy things with their money and that has not changed with Bruce Allen as GM. Philadelphia has jumped in heavy on QB’s before and Miami already has some real questionable contracts on the books, though I’d call a Tannehill extension chance remote.

All of these deals would likely drive the price and the cash flows from the contracts could put the 49ers in a difficult position with the salary cap. Doing a deal now gets it done on their terms.

There is Still Uncertainty about the Salary Cap

Right now the salary cap is still in a state of flux. While it jumped very high this year and is rumored to grow by at least $7 million next year, those numbers are likely coming from the same sources that said the cap would be flat for years. Outside of a few select individuals nobody knows if the cap growth this year was due to revenue growth, poor estimations in the past leading to adjustments, or some concession by the NFLPA.

At this point when an agent argues that the salary cap will rise by X% giving a team more room to afford a QB a team still has a strong leg to stand on saying they disagree with the assessment. It could just be a one year fluke after a few years of no growth. Once you get two years of big growth it becomes more and more difficult.

The 49ers Salary Cap Situation is not Great

San Francisco does not have a great salary cap situation moving forward. They had to use the June 1 cut this season on Carlos Rogers, the void year provision on Anquan Boldin, and restructured Navorro Bowman, off serious injury, for cap relief.  My estimates had them at $129 million in cap commitments to 2015 and that does not include an extension for WR Michael Crabtree. Needless to say it’s a tight situation.

What they don’t want is to be in the Ravens position in the 2013 offseason with big cap commitments, some big free agents, and a free agent QB coming off a Super Bowl. They could not protect themselves from losing Flacco in free agency unless they used the exclusive Franchise tag, which would have crippled them in the offseason. The Ravens had no choice but to pay Flacco $20.1 million a season using a contract structure that is one of the worst in the NFL in terms of leverage.

By extending now they avoid being backed into a corner and can account for the deal as a 7 year contract bringing the salary cap annual value down to the $16.5 million range if no incentives are reached and $18.1 million range if they are reached. Those are much more manageable than the alternative.

So while this still seems very high for a player with such a limited sample size there are some very valid reasons as to why the team likely decided on the deal. Hopefully we’ll get the full breakdown in the next day or two and can comment more on the contract and understanding the numbers involved.




Vernon Davis’ Potential Holdout Indicates a Possible Fantex Problem


According to Mat Maiocco, 49ers Tight End Vernon Davis is seeking a new contract. He is not attending the offseason workout program and will forfeit $200,000 of income by doing so.  Players seeking a new contract is nothing new, but I thought this was a case worth talking about because of Davis’ involvement with Fantex and how this could provide a problem for the NFL in the future.

Fantex is a company that allows people to “invest” in the brand of a NFL football player. Essentially they pay the player a large sum of money up front to receive a percentage of all future earned income. For the most part this income will be derived from playing football. The three brand contracts currently available are for Davis, Arian Foster, and EJ Manuel.

For Davis he was paid $4 million by Fantex for the rights to 10% of his future income. In 2014, Davis was scheduled to earn $5.3 million to play football for the 49ers, so the upfront payment by Fantex covers about 75% of his expected income for the year. Now Fantex is protected from players “resigning” within two years, but there does not seem to be anything related to “holding out” or voluntarily forgoing payments within a contract, such as the $200,000 workout bonus or which Fantex would have received $20,000.

Workout bonuses were designed by teams as a method to encourage near year round supervision by a team and as a means of holdout protection. The basic premise is that if you make the payment large enough the player will attend.  Secondly the CBA contains very harsh language that enables players who hold out of training camp to receive moderate fines and to potentially forfeit signing bonus money previously paid. Usually this money is recovered from the player when the contract situation is resolved and the money taken out of a players’ weekly paycheck. Because these penalties can add up, most players do not want to chance anything more than the minimum allowable holdout that does not incur forfeiture of money.

However, the Fantex business presents a very different opportunity for the player. With $4 million in his pocket, the $200,000 bonus essentially becomes worthless as an enticement to workout with the team.  It makes the risk of fine and forfeiture as he could potentially give up significant portions of money to fight for a new contract since he will have already pocketed 75% of his original expected income for 2014. In addition if weekly paychecks are reduced by fines and forfeited money, the severity of the loss is less due to the Fantex association. For instance a $100,000 fine on a $1 million paycheck should result in a net loss of $90,000 for Davis with Fantex taking on the other $10,000.

I’m not sure how much of a future there is in these brand contracts for the NFL players. The Davis and Foster IPOs were incredibly overpriced, with virtually no chance of the company ever earning back the initial investment in real terms let alone factoring in interest. But if fans are willing to spend money to “own” a part of a player in the ultimate fantasy football scenario they may be able to keep entering into these contracts for years.

If that is the case the NFL is going to have to consider tying more base salary to workout participation through de-escalator clauses or using offseason reporting bonuses as a means of better holdout protection. The Fantex model essentially evades the spirit of the CBA and certain contract language designed to avoid holdouts. It is something they must adjust for.

Davis holding out I guess is somewhat understandable. He is 30 years old and coming off his best season since 2010. The odds of repeating that season are slim. Last year Davis was the teams’ second target due to injuries and lack of depth, and their only real deep threat.  It’s a different landscape in 2014 with Michael Crabtree expected to be healthy for 16 games and a trade for Steve Johnson to play the third receiver role. It will be a struggle to find as many targets in this crowded field.

The 49ers are up against the salary cap wall due to a strong record of successful drafts and veteran acquisitions. My estimates have the 49ers with around $128 million committed to the 2015 salary cap with no Quarterback under contract.  Crabtree is also a free agent and it’s doubtful the team can afford Boldin, Davis and Johnson in 2015.  Releasing Davis saves the team nearly $5 million in cap room   putting him in free agency at 31 years old and likely off a mediocre statistical season to work off of. The 49ers could also decide that Davis is the player they want to keep for one more year and to simply let him play out his contract before he rides off into the sunset at 32, which is certainly not the ideal age to hit free agency when it’s universally accepted that the best years are finished.

Regardless of the reasoning, Fantex is going to empower players to think about holdouts in the future. The NFL usually reacts quickly and I’d expect them to begin thinking of ways to combat this very quickly.




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.

49ers Trade LB Parys Haralson to Saints


The San Francisco 49ers have traded LB Parys Haralson to the New Orleans Saints according to Matt Maiocco of The 49ers made it known earlier this week that they were shopping Haralson and the Saints, who have supposedly lost LB Will Smith for the season, were a logical destination.

Haralson, who was injured all of 2012, renegotiated his contract earlier this season to remain with San Francisco. The Saints will take on $1.15 million in salary obligations as well as another $150,000 in per game roster bonuses that could push his cap charge to $1.3 million on the season. New Orleans was just $5.1 million under the cap earlier today so they would seem to be a team that will be right up against the salary cap for most of the season. Haralson also has $400,000 in incentives that he can earn, however that money will not count towards the cap this season.

Terms of the trade were not disclosed but it is possible that compensation could be tied to the Saints re-signing Haralson, who is set to be a free agent after the season. San Francisco will gain around $670,000 in net cap room following the trade.


Best & Worst Contracts: San Francisco 49’ers


A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Joe StaleyBest Contract: Joe Staley

There are so many places you can go with this team. I think you can make a great argument that the 49’ers are the best run organization in the NFL. They do a terrific job of identifying talent, extending that talent early, and pushing contracts with incredibly team friendly terms regardless of the star power of the player. There are many valid arguments here, but I really like the contracts for Joe Staley and Anthony Davis, the bookend tackles on the offensive line.

Davis has the great contract filled with incentives that are there to motivate performance. There is plenty of space at the end of the contract to where they can restructure for cap relief without damaging their future options with him too badly. Staley was the great vision contract in that they extended him so early in his career that it helped drive the price way down at a time when Tackles were being paid huge sums of money. What pushed it over the top for me was the use of the uncapped season when it came to Staley’s extension.

The owners had opted out of the CBA in 2008 triggering a series of events that would lead to the 2010 season being an uncapped year. The importance of that event was not lost on the 49’ers who realized the uncapped year did not just effect 2010 but 2009 as well. Normally teams would use a small rule in the CBA regarding the treatment of incentives on a contract signed during the course of the year as a method to manipulate the salary cap and carry over unused cap space from one year to the next.  Most teams did it (which is why the new rules concerning carryover was never a big deal despite the perception that it was a major change), but with 2010 set to be uncapped, unused 2009 cap space had nowhere to go.

Rather than letting it go to waste the 49’ers signed Staley (among many other cap manipulative moves from 2009 through 2011) to a reasonable extension with a catch- there would be no signing bonus attached to the contract. Instead the 49’ers front loaded the contract with two large roster bonuses, $11 million in 2009 and $5.6 million in 2010, allowing them to dump around 40% of the base contract value into the uncapped year timeframe.

Though Staley would face injuries in both 2009 and 2010 he was establishing himself as an upper echelon player and when the cap was to return the 49’ers would find themselves with one of the best bargains in the entire NFL. Staley’s contract contained provisions to jump up or down based on playing time plus had the requisite per game roster bonuses.  With no prorated money none of that really matters since he can be cut at any time with no salary cap charge.

From 2012 to 2014 the highest cap charge the 49’ers will face, barring any incentives, is $3.4 million. As a point of reference that is less of a cap charge than 4th overall pick in the draft in his rookie season.  From 2012 to 2015 he will only cost San Francisco $13.9 million in cap dollars. That is less than the 7th pick in the draft except with no future guarantees or dead money hanging over your head if the player fails. As far as non-rookie QB contracts go you will be hard pressed to find a more cap friendly contract than this one.

Carlos rogersWorst Contract: Carlos Rogers

I had thought for a minute about Mario Manningham, but that was really more of a bad personnel decision plus they reworked his deal this year to bring the cap numbers down. Rogers, on the other hand, is like an outlier in a field of team friendly incentivized contracts. He sticks out like a sore thumb and is one of the rare misfires made by the current front office.

While San Francisco has often been creative with some contracts, such as by using unused cap room to lower future cap implications or placing heavy performance incentives into a contract’s base value, Rogers seemed to escape most of that creativity. Sure he has his share of incentive roster bonuses that total $250,000 per year, but he also has incentives designed to boost the maximum value of his contract. Normally one would expect the 49’ers to have milestones in place that devalue the contract rather than up it’s value.

Rogers received a $5 million dollar signing bonus plus a portion of guaranteed salary in 2013 provided he remained on the roster beyond a certain date. The contract was made slightly worse by the need to restructure mid season in order to create enough cap room to extend Navarro Bowman, leading to an additional $900,000 in prorated money plus the remaining portion of his incentivized roster bonuses. That pushed his dead money from $2.5 million to $2.989 million in 2014.

In some ways the 49ers were a victim of circumstance. Teams were overpaying for various corners in 2012 and that pushed Rogers to a salary level that wasn’t really applicable to him. That said, Rogers was 31 in the season of signing and not a in his mid 20s like many of the others who were overpaid. Perhaps the 49’ers read too much into all the interceptions in 2011, but some of the moves they made this offseason made people consider that they were ready to give up on Rogers. If that is the case, then the decision to extend and then restructure were both poor decisions by the team. Still, if this is as bad as it gets the team is in pretty good shape.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers

AFC South: Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsJacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans

AFC West: Denver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersSan Diego Chargers

NFC East: Dallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia EaglesWashington Redskins

NFC North: Chicago BearsDetroit LionsGreen Bay PackersMinnesota Vikings

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina PanthersNew Orleans SaintsTampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West: Arizona CardinalsSt. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49’ers, Seattle Seahawks (August 1)