How 49ers create cap space to extend George Kittle

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /

The 49ers need to extend George Kittle, and there are moves to be made to free up the needed salary cap space.

Earlier, Niner Noise broke down speculative reasons why the San Francisco 49ers could potentially trade their best player, All-Pro tight end George Kittle, at some point not so far down the road and perhaps after the upcoming 2020 campaign.

It wouldn’t be the ideal situation, of course. But the circumstances could ultimately force general manager John Lynch and Co. to go that route, primarily because Kittle could be seeking a new contract worth around $20 million annually.

That’s nearly double what the highest-paid tight end, the Los Angeles Chargers’ Hunter Henry, is currently getting.

But Kittle is worth it, both in terms of what he does on the field and his reputation and personality off of it.

According to Over the Cap, the Niners are projected to have $49,781,160 in cap space for 2021, but this doesn’t account for the team’s rookie 2020 class’ contracts, and it also doesn’t account for some key pending free agents like offensive tackle Trent Williams, safety Jaquiski Tartt, cornerbacks Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams.

Needless to say, there are going to be more than a few obstacles both Lynch and the front office will have to overcome.

Fortunately, there are a number of options San Francisco has to ensure Kittle doesn’t walk after his upcoming contract year, particularly if those options don’t include using the rarely popular franchise tag in 2021.

Let’s evaluate a few, when combined, could free up more than enough space to extend Kittle appropriately.

49ers should trade Solomon Thomas

This isn’t a new suggestion, as Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski (h/t Niners Nation) broke down the idea the 49ers could trade their top pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, defensive end Solomon Thomas, this offseason.

Sobleski’s suggestion would be to the Minnesota Vikings, who are absent a pass-rusher opposite Danielle Hunter ever since fellow EDGE Everson Griffen voided his contract.

Thomas has been a massive disappointment, now relegated to mere support duties behind a still-stacked Niners defensive line. So it’s highly unlikely San Francisco would get much of anything in return, although trading Thomas would clear $4.39 million in much-needed cap space.

Just like that, the 49ers would have roughly a quarter of the dollar amount needed to give Kittle his extension.

49ers should cut Dee Ford in 2021

The Niners’ Super Bowl window is open now, and having the edge-rushing tandem of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford should be a major boost to the D-line.

But Ford, who dealt with injuries and was limited to just 11 regular-season games last season, is going to cost San Francisco $15.9 million in 2020 and $17.6 million in 2021. The 49ers won’t cut Ford this season, but doing so a little less than a year from now would free up $12.8 million in space.

Doing this in addition to the Thomas trade would generate over $17 million in cap space for 2021, which helps put the Niners in a much better position to make Kittle’s extension possible.

49ers can restructure or extend Jimmy Garoppolo

This is another idea floated around for some time, considering quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is commanding the biggest portion of San Francisco’s cap space entering 2020.

The Niners won’t cut him, yet a restructure or extension could ultimately save the Niners a lot of money in the immediate future. Granted, this would make it much more difficult for the 49ers to move on from Garoppolo after this season, should they want to do so if he completely flames out. But it seems silly San Francisco would want to do that, at least right now.

But as Niners Nation’s Jason Hurley pointed out, the 49ers could save up to $19 million by moving a significant portion of Garoppolo’s annual cap hit over the next three years from salary to bonus money, likely including two or three voidable years if done via a restructure.

This would be an ultimate commitment to Jimmy G, of course, yet that might not be the worst idea other.

Next. 5 Niners players who could lose jobs after 2020 NFL Draft. dark

More importantly, it would free up almost the entirety of the money needed to retain Kittle. And in conjunction with the other two moves, San Francisco would have additional resources to retain players like Sherman, Trent Williams and K’Waun Williams.