3 players 49ers could cut to save cap space in 2021

Dee Ford #55 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Dee Ford #55 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Weston Richburg, 49ers
Weston Richburg #58 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

No. 3: 49ers Center Weston Richburg

The 49ers spent a lot of money on veteran center Weston Richburg when they signed him as a free agent back in 2018, giving him a five-year, $47.5 million deal.

When healthy, Richburg is a seamless fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense and was playing awfully well before suffering a knee injury late in 2019. This puts his status for 2020 in some doubt, especially considering he also dealt with injuries during training camp a year ago.

Health being a key factor, there’s also a somewhat-confusing contractual note to consider. The June 1 rule allows teams to cut players after that date, frequently saving much more against the cap with less dead money. Case in point, if the Niners were to cut Richburg before June 1 in 2021, they’d be on the hook for $8.44 million in dead money.

That won’t happen. But if a cut is made after that date, the dead money is only $3.06 million with $8.35 million generated in savings.

Granted, San Francisco’s top 51 contracts would have to be under the cap limit long before that date, and it’s rare you see big-number contracts terminated at this time of year.

Yet there’s a scenario in which something like this could pan out.

Let’s assume the 49ers and George Kittle can’t come to an agreement this year, and the 49ers place a franchise tag on the All-Pro tight end. That would open up a window in which both parties could still negotiate a new deal, expiring in mid July.

Should San Francisco need to free up cap space to re-sign Kittle in 2021, parting ways with Richburg after June 1 might be a feasible way to make it happen.