Examining 49ers' possible salary reductions, contract restructurings

Examining 49ers' possible salary reductions, contract restructurings originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The unprecedented $30 million increase in the NFL salary cap this year appears to have provided teams with enough cover to move on from some of their highest-priced players.

The 49ers have presented proposals for salary reductions to at least two of their long-time standouts: defensive lineman Arik Armstead and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Armstead has declined to accept the new contract, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, so the 49ers are prepared to release him to avoid paying his $17.4 million base salary and his scheduled $850,000 in workout and roster bonuses.

If the 49ers do not designate it as a post-June 1 release, Armstead will count $25.86 million on the 2024 salary cap because of already-paid bonuses since he signed a lucrative contract extension in 2020.

Juszczyk, an eight-time Pro Bowl honoree, is scheduled to make $5.75 million in 2024, plus $400,000 in per-game roster bonuses. If the sides do not come to an agreement on a new, reduced contract, the 49ers could release him, too.

Juszczyk would count $2.67 million in dead money — the term for the cost of a player no longer on the roster that counts toward that team’s salary cap. The release of Juszczyk would create an immediate savings of $4.9 million on the cap.

Here are the situations surrounding some of the 49ers’ other highest-paid players:

— Left tackle Trent Williams is set to make $20 million in base salary with another $850,000 in bonuses. As the NFL's top player at his position, the 49ers would appear to be more inclined to convert his contract to create cap savings rather than even consider moving on from him.

— Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has the highest base salary of anyone on the team at $20.97 million plus another $950,000 in bonuses. There has been speculation the 49ers could look at his contract, especially with teammate Brandon Aiyuk eyeing a multi-year contract extension that would pay him among the top NFL receivers.

Samuel’s cap figure is scheduled to be $28.6 million this season and $24.2 million in 2025. If the 49ers were to find a trade partner, he would still count $21.7 million in dead money but it would create a cap savings this year of $6.9 million. Also, in that scenario, Samuel would be off the books for 2025, when quarterback Brock Purdy appears in line to become the team's highest-paid player.

— Linebacker Fred Warner’s base salary is $15.3 million with $600,000 more in bonuses. It would actually cost the team more on the salary cap to release or trade him. He is going nowhere for a while.

— Tight end George Kittle is set to make $13.4 million with $600,000 more in bonuses. If Kittle were to be traded, he would count $18.9 million against the 49ers’ cap in dead money while creating $3 million in cap savings.

Because of his importance to the offense and no tight end on the roster of starting caliber, Kittle appears certain to remain as a pillar of the team.

— Linebacker Dre Greenlaw is scheduled to make $8.1 million in base salary with another $600,000 in bonuses. There is also uncertainty with him due to the torn Achilles he sustained in the Super Bowl.

With a cap figure of $9.6 million, the 49ers would save $6.8 million with his release and he would count just $2.8 million in dead money. However, as Jason Hurley of points out, Greenlaw has a $2.5 million injury guarantee for April 1 that the club would have to pay.

— Cornerback Charvarius Ward is scheduled to make $12.56 million with another $340,000 in per game roster bonuses. He is entering the final year of his contract. If anything, the 49ers should be looking to extend his contract before he hits free agency a year from now.

— Running back Christian McCaffrey is set to make $11.8 million. Although he is the highest-paid running back in the league, he is still underpaid.

— Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is on the second year of his contract after being the 49ers’ big free-agent splash last year. He is set to make $8.885 million with another $850,000 in bonuses. He is the man in the middle the 49ers are now building around.

— Defensive end Nick Bosa will be around a while after signing his big-money deal last year. His base salary is only $1.125 million. The big cap numbers start kicking in 2026, when the number balloons from $14.7 million this year to $20.5 million next year to $42 million.

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