The 49ers’ top 51 players currently under contract account for $121.2 million on their 2014 salary cap, according to a league source.
The NFL-wide salary cap is expected to be in the $126 million to $128 million range. Plus, the 49ers have an additional $2.175 million in carryover of unused cap space from the 2013 season.
But that money can go rapidly, especially with five veteran starters (including kicker Phil Dawson) not under contract and an underpaid quarterback (in relative terms) with whom they can negotiate a long-term deal.
The 49ers are expected to create some additional room.
Last offseason, the 49ers asked cornerback Carlos Rogers to accept a pay cut. He declined, and it was a wise move. Rogers might have been released just before the beginning of the regular season, but the 49ers had no choice but to keep him at any price after Chris Culliver sustained a season-ending knee injury early in training camp.
Rogers had a good year, no question. He played more defensive snaps than anyone else on the team during the regular season. He was a major factor in the 49ers’ strong pass defense, which held opponents to a 76.4 passer rating -- fourth-best in the league.
But Rogers is currently on the 49ers’ books as their highest-paid player for 2014. He is scheduled to make $6.6 million in salary and bonuses. He currently accounts for $8.09 million on the salary cap. After showing their hand a year ago, the 49ers will almost assuredly approach him again about a pay cut. With approximately $3 million in proration, Rogers’ release would create $3.6 million in cap room.
Another player who does not figure to return at his current salary is wide receiver Jon Baldwin, scheduled to make $1.4 million. Part of the reason the 49ers made the trade to send A.J. Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs for Baldwin was because Jenkins had two years remaining of guaranteed salaries. Baldwin had just one. They can release Baldwin and not feel the cap sting of any proration.
It's interesting to note a couple of areas of the team that do not take up much cap space.
Obviously, quarterback is the highest-paid position in the league. Last year’s franchise number for quarterbacks was more than $16 million. Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to account for one-tenth of that number -- at $1.63 million on the 49ers’ salary cap.
Wide receiver was the No. 3 highest-paid position with a franchise number of $11.5 million. Anquan Boldin is a free agent. And Michael Crabtree, entering the final year of his first contract, is scheduled for a cap figure of $4.77 million.
Meanwhile, inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are among the team's six highest-paid players.
The beginning of the new league year is scheduled for March 11, by which point a league-wide salary cap will be set and every team must comply with only the salaries of their top-51 players counting.
Here’s a look at the 10 players on the 49ers scheduled to earn the most in 2014:
2014 cash value (2014 cap number)
CB Carlos Rogers $6.6 million ($8.09 million)
RB Frank Gore $6.45 million ($6.45 million)
LB Patrick Willis $6.353 million ($6.86 million)
TE Vernon Davis $5.3 million ($7.34 million)
LB Ahmad Brooks $5.1 million ($6.6 million)
LB NaVorro Bowman $4.75 million ($7.05 million)
DT Justin Smith $4.75 million ($6.94 million)
RT Anthony Davis $4.165 million ($7.5 million)
WR Michael Crabtree $4 million ($4.77 million)
DL Ray McDonald $3.6 million ($5.35 million)