Challenges 49ers will face with increased 2022 salary cap ceiling

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The NFL and NFLPA approved an increased cap ceiling for 2022, but the 49ers could still face some notable challenges next year regardless.

The San Francisco 49ers remarkably figured out how to increase their salary cap during an offseason where the cap diminished from $198 million down to $182.5 million in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Entering the offseason, the Niners had approximately $11 million in space. Now, at least before signing the top end of its rookie NFL Draft class, San Francisco is currently at $17.7 million, per Over the Cap.

This, while also re-signing a large portion of its pending free-agent class, including left tackle Trent Williams‘ massive six-year deal worth up to $138 million.

For those who think the NFL salary cap is merely an imaginary number, what general manager John Lynch and chief contracts negotiator Paraag Marathe managed to do this offseason reinforces the idea.

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported both the league and players union agreed to a 2022 salary cap ceiling of $208.2 million:

This doesn’t automatically mean the cap will be set at that point. Revenue generated from the upcoming 2021 campaign will ultimately determine where it falls and what the floor will be, and Graziano also reported in the same Twitter thread the $208.2 million falls short of what was initially projected to be a $218 million salary cap for the year had the pandemic not been a factor.

On the surface, it’s certainly good news for the 49ers right now, who’ll start to see a number of their younger players command much more cash in 2022.

At the same time, though, there are some projected challenges Marathe, Lynch and the Niners will have to face.

Challenges ahead of the 49ers with 2022 cap ceiling

Williams’ 2021 cap hit is a reasonable $8.19 million, but that number spikes significantly in 2022 — $14.12 million, to be precise.

Not surprisingly, he’s one of the top-paid players on the Niners roster a year from now:

  1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo — $27 million
  2. DE Arik Armstead — $20 million
  3. TE George Kittle — $16 million
  4. OT Trent Williams — $14.12 million
  5. EDGE Dee Ford — $11.9 million
  6. DB Jimmie Ward — $11.5 million
  7. OT Mike McGlinchey — $10.88 million
  8. EDGE Nick Bosa — $10.8 million

San Francisco is expected to let center Weston Richburg retire after June 1, which will free up an additional $1 million this year and over $9 million next season, which makes the team’s projected 2022 cap space, currently at $14.56 million per OTC, a lot more favorable.

But the kicker is going to be Garoppolo, who’s scheduled to enter the final season of the initial five-year, $137.5 million contract he signed back in 2018.

If the 49ers feel they’re ready to make the transition to this year’s rookie quarterback, Trey Lance, moving on from Jimmy G frees up an additional $25.6 million with only $1.4 million in dead money.

That might have to be the route the Niners take.

Related Story: 49ers better extend Fred Warner sooner than later

Already on the slate of players needing extensions sooner than later is All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner, whose rookie contract runs out at the end of 2021. Warner could easily command north of the $18 million-annually mark, currently held by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. And not far behind him is Bosa, who could easily wind up being the league’s top-paid player by the time his eligibility for an extension kicks in for the 2022 season.

How Bosa responds this year after tearing his ACL a season ago will go a long way towards determining his eventual cap hit and contract.

It’s anyone’s guess how those two likely to-be-massive deals pan out and whether or not they end up being front-loaded, back-loaded or carry a hefty amount of guaranteed money.

Ideally, the $218 million salary cap would be preferable. But at least San Francisco won’t be in the worst possible situation when trying to address both Warner and Bosa’s contract extensions.

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