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Active In Free Agency?
February 22th 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
It certainly sounds like the 49ers will be more active this season in the Free Agency market. Almost out of the salary cap trouble that has plagued the team since the Eddie Debartlo era, the 49ers can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course that's not to say the team is completely out of trouble, or that they will be going after any really big time players - but there is a fair chance the team will be much more active than in years past, and will look for at least one starting caliber player.

Of course before outward growth is to occur, the team needs to turn its attention inward. Still needing to get under this year's salary cap figure, the 49ers are in midst of restructuring deals with players already under contract. Ideally, the team would also like to bring back most of its free agents, particularly Jeremy Newberry, Fred Beasley, Lance Schulters and Garrison Hearst. With Steve Mariucci re-committing to the team this past week, it may be easier to re-sign some of these players.

The money will have to come from somewhere, and there are a few obvious players who will be turned to by the team for some help. Along with the restructured contracts, the team may release tight end Greg Clark and defensive tackle Reggie McGrew. Jeff Garcia the 49ers starting quarterback that signed a big deal last season could be among the first the team turns to for help. The team will also turn to JJ Stokes who will have to agree to a new contract to stick with the team. Other players projected to reduce their salary cap figures include: Bryant Young, Derek Smith, Derek Deese, Terrell Owens and possibly Dana Stubblefield. The team may also turn to Julian Peterson and possibly Ray Brown for some cap relief.

From the above negotiations the team could save as much as $9 million. It is also believe several of the players aforementioned have already agreed to renegotiating their contracts. The 49ers however, traditionally wait to announce all of the changes at once. Essentially there are two ways to find salary cap relief, the first is rather simple, converting a large amount of a players salary to a signing bonus. This process works effectively, but if a player is released, their signing bonus gets accelerated against that years salary cap, creating 'dead money'. The second is to change a players contract into an incentive filled contract. Essentially by setting 'unattainable incentives' (those incentives with greater figures than the season before ie, if a player records 4 sacks on season, the incentive would be for 5 sacks). This two is effective, but players are less likely to agree to a contract that does not guarantee them fully payment.

The 49ers have used both methods in the past to help them get under the cap. The team typically looks for players who will have long prosperous careers with the team to change their contracts. This is done because some times extentions are offered, and as a measure to help protect against the signing bonus acceleration described earlier. The team will have until March 1st to get under the salary cap - the date at which free agency will officially begin. In the event that a team is not under the cap by this date, they are fined significantly on a per day basis until they are under the salary cap.

Talk about it in the 49ers Paradise Forum

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