San Francisco 49ers Salary Cap Situation And Finances Heading Into NFL Free Agency

The San Francisco 49ers head into NFL free agency in a less-than-stellar salary cap situation. The two-time defending NFC runners-ups also have a nice amount of free agents they must consider bringing back while looking into possible extensions for star players.

There’s a major backdrop here. That is San Francisco’s quarterback situation following the elbow injury Brock Purdy suffered in the NFC Championship Game. With veteran Jimmy Garoppolo all but gone and Trey Lance also returning from injury, it’s safe to assume that general manager John Lynch will bring in an outside option in free agency.

As we prepare for the start of the new league year, I thought it made sense to check in on the 49ers’ cap situation. Here’s a detailed explanation as of right now.

San Francisco 49ers Are Currently 16th In Cap Room

According to Spotrac, San Francisco is roughly $3.19 million under the $224.8 million NFL salary cap for the 2023 season.

Including exclusive-rights free agents, these 49ers have a whopping 25 players set to hit the open market. That includes starters Jimmie Ward, Samson Ebukam, Emmanuel Moseley, Mike McGlinchey and Tashaun Gipson.

It’s safe to assume that some of these players, primarily Ward and McGlinchey, will be priced out of the 49ers’ market. That creates potential external needs once free agency opens. But there’s a lot of layers to this. Let’s check in on them below.

San Francisco 49ers Have Options Ahead Of NFL Free Agency

We already know how well 49ers president and salary cap guru Paraag Marathe has worked in the past. He’s among the best in the league in playing salary cap gymnastics. I am expecting nothing different this time around.

San Francisco has an ability to create a ton of cap room by restructuring certain contracts. It has been the modus operandi of the organization in the recent past.

Per Over the Cap, this cycle could include a cap savings of an estimated $59 million by restructuring the contracts of Trent Williams, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, George Kittle, Charvarius Ward and Christian McCaffrey.

Pushing back cap hits to later years has been a standard operation procedure for NFL teams. That’s now magnified with the NFL salary cap set to increase leaps and bounds due to the league’s historic revenue and television contracts. In short, large cap hits in 2024 and beyond won’t have the same impact as we’re seeing today.

The Nick Bosa Equation

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year currently boasts a cap hit of $17.86 million for the 2023 season, the final year of his rookie contract.

San Francisco’s brass has made it clear that the team intends to sign Bosa to what would be an historic contract extension this offseason.

“I think we have a really good track record. You look the last five years, working backwards with Deebo and before that it was Fred and Kittle and Trent and Jimmy of getting our players done, but it takes time, it takes patience, it takes persistence, and we’ll have that on our side,” San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said earlier in February.

Based on the 49ers’ track record, we can’t expect anything to get done on this front until the summer months. Big ticket extensions for the likes of George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Fred Warner did not get done until August in previous years.

Even then, San Francsico can budget for a Bosa extension. Even if it is a market setter for a defensive player in NFL history, Bosa’s cap hit for the 2023 season would decrease significantly. Per Over the Cap, said savings would come in at an estimated $13.42 million depending on the final details of an extension.

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Bottom Line: San Francisco 49ers Can Be Active In Free Agency

That’s the overriding takeaway here. While the 49ers’ cap situation doesn’t seem great right now, they can actually head into free agency with roughly $62 million in cap room.

With three NFC Championship Game appearances in the past four years, it’s clear that the 49ers are in win-now mode. It makes perfect sense for Lynch and Co. to keep this championship window open by adding to San Francsico’s loaded roster.

We saw it to an extent with the signing of Charvarius Ward to a big-ticket contract last offseason. The blockbuster in-season trade for Christian McCaffrey added another layer to this.

Without a pick in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, San Francisco can’t expect rookies to play huge roles in 2023. It must now make the decision to push cap issues down the road in order to create more talent and depth during NFL free agency. It’s the only logical conclusion right now.