When talking about NFL money, there are two major things to keep in mind:
First, a players ‘cap hit’ is how much the team is paying on their cap to the player. Second, ‘dead money’ is the financial penalty of cutting/trading a particular player.
With that in mind, here are the worst contracts currently on the 49ers payroll.
4. Jimmy Garoppolo
Disclaimer: If Garoppolo is not on the roster Week 1, take him off this list
Garoppolo is making 13.5 percent of the 49ers cap in 2021. No team has ever won a Super Bowl with any single player making more than 13.1 percent (Steve Young).
Currently, Garoppolo has the fifth-biggest cap hit in the NFL. When the 49ers were competitive in 2019, Garoppolo was making 8.6 percent of the their cap. Big difference.
The part that makes Garoppolo’s contract NOT a total catastrophe, is that the 49ers can release/trade him and free up $24 million in cap space. But Garoppolo does have a no-trade clause in 2021 and can veto any potential trade.
In order for the 49ers to not be financially crippled, Garoppolo cannot be on the 49ers Week 1 roster. Which means Trey Lance has to be ready to start.
It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the team will cut or trade Garoppolo in the preseason. But will they actually do it? Even if Lance is ready, are Lynch and York willing to cut bait entirely?
With all of Kyle Shanahan’s comments, it’s clear he wants ANY quarterback starting for his team other than Garoppolo. But not everyone in the organization is on the same wavelength.
3. Arik Armstead
Some in the 49ers media and fanbase have been defending Armstead this offseason after recording 3.5 sacks (down from 10.0 in 2019) saying that the team around him and situations he was put in was the reason for lesser numbers.
Even with this being true, the money the 49ers are paying Armstead is what makes it so hard to justify him being on the roster.
While Armstead has a low cap number this season ($12.5 million) his dead cap makes him virtually impossible to ship off at $28.1 million.
Then over the next three seasons, his cap number starts at $20 million and only escalates ($21.7 million in 2023, $23.6 million in 2024) until his contract expires when he is 32.
The 49ers can get out of his contract in 2023, but even then he would be a $11.5 million dead cap hit in ’23 and $6.5 million in ’24. The team would have to sacrifice financial flexibility to get out of his contract.
He would have to play as well as he did in 2019 to justify the contract. Even then, is he really worth it?
2. Robbie Gould
This season, the 49ers will pay Robbie Gould $2.6 million, and he carries a dead cap hit of $8.1 million. In 2022, his cap hit rises to $5.5 million, with a dead cap of $5.5 million.
While Gould is a serviceable kicker, the difference between Gould and a kicker off the free agency market is becoming slimmer and slimmer. Gould is compensated as if he is a Top 5-7 kicker in the NFL, but hasn’t performed like one recently.
In his first two seasons with the 49ers (2017-18), Gould only missed 3 kicks. Since then, he has missed 4 games and 12 field goals.
Unless you have the next Justin Tucker, there is no reason to pay a kicker so much.
1. Dee Ford
Heading into 2019, the 49ers traded for and signed Dee Ford to a new five-year contract. The only issue was that he had chronic injuries preceding his time with the 49ers.
In 2020, the 49ers restructured Ford’s contract and pushed money further down the line (about $3.18 million extra over each of the remaining seasons).
Then this past offseason, with rumors that Ford’s injuries would force him into retirement, the team restructured his contract again, essentially changing his 3-year deal to a 2-year deal with a void year in 2023.
Now Ford has a cap hit of $8.9 million in 2021 and $11.9 million in 2022 (in 2023 he has a dead cap hit of $4.9 million). The Niners could release him this season eat the $8.9 million and save $7 million in 2022.
The original sin the 49ers made with the Dee Ford contract was that they gave him $45 million in injury protection on his 5-year deal.
With someone who had such a long history of injury concerns (going back to college) it is absurd that they gave him SO much in guarantees. The 49ers created this problem themselves – now they are paying the price.