San Francisco 49ers: 5 players who’ll be cut before contracts expire

Kwon Alexander #56 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Kwon Alexander #56 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Dante Pettis, 49ers
Dante Pettis #18 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers are in territory where their current roster won’t support more expensive players, meaning these five won’t see their contracts play out.

In 2017 and 2018, the San Francisco 49ers were so flush with salary cap space, they could essentially go out and overspend on a number of big-name players and free agents.

Entering 2020, the context is entirely different.

Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance and still armed with a championship-caliber roster, general manager John Lynch and Co. are faced with the reality the 2021 squad could look vastly different than the one fans will see this upcoming season. A number of key players — fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end George Kittle, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Jaquiski Tartt — are entering contract years. Others, like linebacker Fred Warner and right tackle Mike McGlinchey, are going to command extensions here pretty soon.

Currently, according to Over the Cap, the Niners are projected to have $49,781,160 in available cap space for 2021. This assumes, however, the pending free-agent names listed above, and others, don’t re-sign with San Francisco between now and then.

Some of those players could return, yes. But the reality is Lynch and his staff might have to make some cap casualties at some point, meaning these five players could ultimately see their tenures with the 49ers end before their contracts are set to expire.

No. 5: 49ers Wide Receiver Dante Pettis

From a purely financial standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense for San Francisco to part ways with third-year wide receiver Dante Pettis, at least not in 2020.

He’s due only $1,745,608 for this season, yet $1,367,476 of that would be dead money if he’s waived. That’s cheap for a lower-tier wide receiver on his rookie contract, but the amount of dead money decreases to $683,738 in 2021 if the Niners choose to part ways with him before his contract year.

As for the on-field stuff, Pettis’ fall from grace in 2019 needs little background. From a promising rookie late in 2018 to being inactive for Super Bowl LIV, this upcoming season is crucial for Pettis’ chances to hang around and make an impact. Fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s foot injury helps increase Pettis’ stock value a bit, which might ultimately mean the latter is safe on the roster for now.

But if Pettis puts in another lackluster season in 2020, one can all but guarantee he won’t be around for year four of his four-year contract.