Sopoaga: Three years, $11 million ($3.75 million guaranteed)
Goldson: Five years, $41.25 million ($18 million guaranteed)
Francois: Four years, $22 million ($8.5 million guaranteed)
These players were all locked up early and were paid extremely well. Too well. Sopoaga will be lucky to last past year one of his deal. Goldson certainly has value as an intimidating playmaker, but the third-most guaranteed money to a safety in the entire league? Now Jean-Francois, the guy who played in about a quarter of the 49ers’ defensive snaps over the last two years, is also making a lot of money.
Put it this way: I had a pretty good and funny post from Stampede Blue up on my screen in the press box today at Scottsdale Stadium, and Chris Haft (Giants beat writer for MLB.com) saw the headline, which included the Jean-Francois contract terms. His incredulous response: “What? That’s like giving that kind of money to Joaquin Arias,” Haft said. Arias, for those of you who don’t watch baseball, is the Giants’ utility infielder, the first guy off the bench when they need someone to play third or second base in a pinch. Arias is making $925,000 this year.
There are different rules in baseball with service time, arbitration, and all that. But the point still stands. Jean-Francois is making this kind of money for two reasons: he’s been taught how to play in different formations, and he was a part of a defense that other teams want to emulate. If he was a full-time starter for a middling team, there would be no upside. And that’s what RJF is getting paid for. He’s a decent run defender and a below average pass rusher. Teams aren’t trying to double-team Jean-Francois, unless one of the two offensive linemen is bored and has nothing better to do.
Sopoaga has played 783 snaps in his career (2010-12). Glenn Dorsey, who the 49ers signed to a two-year deal worth as much as $7 million (which is quite a bit different than $8.5 million guaranteed), played 937 snaps in 2010. That number shrunk to just over 100 in 2012 due to injury, and Dorsey also fought expectations based on his draft position (5th overall in 2008, compared to RJF, a seventh-rounder in 2009). Like Jean-Francois, Dorsey is known as good against the run and meh against the pass.
If Dorsey gets in great shape, moves in with Jim Tomsula and allows Justin Smith to rest more often than the times when his arm is falling off, he could help the 49ers and hold down a role that makes him look like a relative bargain, especially compared to Sopoaga and Jean-Francois. And if the 49ers continue their winning ways, he could be in for a payday comparable to what he received after the Chiefs drafted him.