June First- 04/22/2000
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Ever since the NFL instituted the salary cap, teams have tried to find ways around it. The June first deadline is one of the few days these salary cap masters look forward too. On this day teams benefit from the ability to release players without a hit to the years salary cap. The effects are felt the following season, but in the mean time most teams can find enough money to sign the drafted players. The same rule applies to players who opt for retirement. With the 49ers under such salary duress they will need to clear about 4-5 million to sign their draftees. This inevitably means players will be cut. Though impossible to predict exactly who will be cut and who will retire from the team, it can't hurt to take a look at a few possible scenarios that may occur on this day.

The most obvious place to begin is with Q.B. Steve Young. At this point in time it is really tough to predict Young's status for next season, however if we analyze the situation that has unfolded over the off-season a hypothesis may be able to be formed. Within a week Steve Young will be returning from his honey moon, and it is already known that he wont be participating in the 49ers first mini-camp (due to the timing of his return). This puts his off-season conditioning in question. On the other hand it is also known that Young's agent Leigh Steinberg has proclaimed that Young still has the desire to play with the 49ers. The 49ers however drafted two quarterbacks, playing it safe they called it, but couple this the lack of offensive linemen they drafted and the message they are sending Young is obvious - retire. The 49ers don't want to see Young on another team, but at the same point they want to move on graciously and don't want to be responsible for any brain damage Young may suffer from an additional concussion. Though we can't say for sure, it would take tons of effort to get Young back into playing form, and one must believe his family wants him to call it quits. We can thus hypothesize that Young will likely not be back with the team next season, and hopefully his departure will not mirror that of Joe Montana's.

The next most obvious player to speculate upon is W.R. Jerry Rice. Finally Rice has agreed to work with the team for the best possible outcome for both sides. Rice wants to be a part of the rebuilding, and the 49ers would hate to part on bad terms, but the 49ers have made it perfectly clear that Rice will need to take a pay cut if he wants to play for the team. Rice can save the 49ers 4 million if he wants to restructure, and if released about 2 million. It is in the best interest of the team to keep Rice around for one more season.

There are several other players that the 49ers will have to make some serious decisions about. Mainly Gabe Wilkins and R.W. McQuarters. Though the 9ers have little depth along the defensive line, and Wilkins has already restructured his contract, the 49ers are not happy with his level of play. One sac in two seasons is simply not enough. With the drafting of DE John Engelberger and the 9ers being happy with second year player Chike Okeafor, Wilkins days with the 9ers are likely numbered. His departure could save the 9ers 1 million dollars. McQuarters on the other hand may benefit from the 49ers fear. They need a solid group of defensive backs, and McQuarters is the most experienced one on the 9ers roster. The 49ers don't want to repeat the Tyronne Drakeford situation with McQuarters (Drakeford was released before his second season and has prospered since in New Orleans). It is this fear that may keep McQuarters around, but he will have to compete with the a bunch of younger players entering the system.

A less likely release of Winfred Tubbs is not entirely impossible. The 49ers need players at the linebacker position, but if Jeff Ulbrich has a really strong impact in mini-camp, Tubbs may be in trouble. Garrison Hearst may be another less likely cap casualty. The 9ers love Hearst as a running back, but are extremely worried about his return to form after a devastating leg injury. Hearst will likely be asked to take a pay cut, with his impeding second surgery.

June first is just over a month away, and the 49ers will be faced with a number of challenges to sign their rookies. A new agreement with Jerry Rice would provide the most relief, and likely would result in the least amount of cap casualties.
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