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The 49ers might not have a whole lot of cap room, but there’s a good reason for that.
Loyal reader Justin asked via Facebook if the 49ers’ cap is messed up moving forward. “A lot of so-called ‘49er experts’ claiming Crabtree, Iupati, J.Smith, V.Davis, McDonald, Willis and Aldon all on their way out the door,” Justin wrote.
While I have not seen anyone claiming that those seven players are soon-to-be-former 49ers, there is a basic NFL principle at play. Teams that do a good job of acquiring talent will always have a difficult time holding onto that talent for future contracts.
The 49ers have been among the top teams over the past handful of NFL seasons in acquiring talent, mostly through the draft. But the problem -- if you can call it a problem -- in acquiring a lot of good players is that they outplay their contracts.
General manager Trent Baalke has said it on more than one occasion: “You can’t pay everyone.”
Every team must have a mix of veterans earning their money and good, young players on their first contracts who are making below market value. That's why teams, such as the 49ers, have to draft for the future. Under the new CBA, a draft pick must be in the league three full seasons before the sides can even negotiate a new contract.
Center Daniel Kilgore and fullback Bruce Miller were the first players from the 49ers’ bountiful 2011 draft who came to an agreement on a contract extension. Cornerback Chris Culliver and running back Kendall Hunter are potential targets, too.
And, of course, the 49ers’ entire cap dynamic will change when they get a new deal with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is scheduled to make about half of Blaine Gabbert’s guarantee of $2 million for the 2014 season. (For those scoring at home, new Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub is scheduled to make $10 million more than Kaepernick this season.)
Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati are also on contracts set to expire after this season. Crabtree can be expected to seek a blockbuster deal. And Iupati, one of the top players at his position, will become among the highest-paid guards in the NFL. If both players end up getting the kind of deals one would expect, it’s doubtful both contracts will be from the 49ers.