It’s time to move on from Super Bowl XLVII whether you like it or not. They say time heals all wounds, and while separation from Sunday should do well to make fans feel better, the offseason will provide an antiseptic as well.
It’s never too early to talk roster maneuvering. The 49ers have some interesting decisions to make, especially given the sudden need to retool the secondary and shore up the defensive line.
At first glance, the 49ers have absolutely no room to wiggle in the upcoming season. According to this article from NinersNation, San Francisco has roughly $2.1M cap space to work with after incentives, dead money, cap credit and carry over. The 2013 salary cap is set at just over $125.4M and the 49ers would be spending roughly $123.3M.
Of course, not everyone on the 2012 roster is going to be around next season. Here’s a list of some players under contract who are candidates to get cut.
(Explanatory note: The amount of money freed up by cutting a player is dependent on bonuses. If the 49ers cut a player, it doesn’t mean their salary cap is completely off the hook. Signing bonuses can be prorated over the length of the contract, but if they’re cut before that contract expires, it affects the cap on the year they are cut. NinersNation is running a series of posts regarding these potential cap casualties, complete with all the nuts and bolts for salary cap savings.)
David Akers — Akers had a disastrous season and cutting him was a forgone conclusion anyway. Factor in his scheduled $3M salary in 2013, and he’s guaranteed to be looking for a new home this offseason.
Alex Smith – Although Jim Harbaugh didn’t say as much during his final press conference, Smith will probably not be back as the NFL’s highest paid backup quarterback next year. This is where the situation gets a little tricky — if the 49ers manage to trade or release Smith before the April 1st deadline, they and their salary cap are free of the $8.5M owed to the quarterback. If they keep him past the deadline they’ll be on the hook financially and the cap will be affected, so it will be wise for the 49ers to make a decision regarding Smith quickly.
While the aforementioned are almost guaranteed to be going, things get a little tricky beyond Akers and Smith.
Parys Haralson — He went mostly forgotten in 2012 after suffering a torn triceps tendon in the preseason. He provided solid run-stopping and pass coverage abilities in 2011, but Aldon Smith now has a full season under his belt as an every-down outside linebacker. At $2.87M, the 49ers may choose to part ways with the man who’s famous for having eyes as itchy as “two goats in a pepper patch.”
Jonathan Goodwin – This move would be dependent on how ready Daniel Kilgore is to step in as the 49ers center of the future. Goodwin was ranked 10th in the league for centers according to Pro Football Focus, so San Francisco could certainly do worse, but making the switch to Kilgore would save the 49ers $3.7M in 2013.
Mario Manningham — Manningham was a solid wide receiver for the 49ers before injuring his knee midseason. Unfortunately, until more cases like Adrian Peterson start appearing, a player returning to full strength following a knee injury is still a major question mark. With $3.95M owed to him in 2013, Manningham may be too expensive of a question mark for the 49ers’ taste.
Carlos Rogers – He was ranked as the 46th best corner out of 113 by Pro Football Focus after taking a rather sizable step back in 2012. Although Chris Culliver took some of the focus off of Rogers’ struggles, he may be one of the more overpaid cornerbacks in the NFL right now. Rogers’ salary sits at approximately $7.34M, but they could save themselves $4.15M in cap space if they cut him by June 1st. Shedding his salary would help with the cap, but it wouldn’t do much for the defense’s coverage deficiencies unless the 49ers found his replacement in the draft or free agency.
Donte Whitner — Whitner was ranked 53rd by Pro Football Focus, well in the bottom half of the league’s 88 eligible safeties. The 49ers will have their hands full dealing with Dashon Goldson, who has already said he’s not interested in being franchise tagged again in 2013. With $4.1M owed to Whitner in 2013 and Goldson looking to be one of the highest paid safeties in NFL history, the 49ers may see a complete overhauling at the safety position for the 2013 season.