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49ers Get Under Cap Avoid Two
March 2nd 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
With a series of maneuvers the 49ers dropped from about four million dollars above this years salary cap to approximately three and a half million under it. The moves entailed the restructuring of several contracts, including Jeff Garcia's who saved the team about three million on his own. Generally speaking the team converted base salary into signing bonuses that are prorated over the length of a contract. This method is quite effective as long as players remain with the team, otherwise the bonus gets accelerated against the cap.

The 49ers were able to get under the salary cap with what seemed to be ease compared to the past three seasons. In getting under the cap, the team was amazingly able to avoid seeking new contracts with receivers Terrell Owens and JJ Stokes. Both players currently have two of the largest base salaries on the roster, but to restructure their deals would likely mean to extend their contracts, and that's where the controversy comes in.

Until the team can predict the future of the relations between Terrell Owens and Steve Mariucci it is highly unlikely that Owens' contract will see much action. The team knows that relieving this issue would give them many the option in free agency, and would in all likelihood allow the team to return it's top four free agents.

Although the team and JJ Stokes are reportedly working on a new contract there is not much urgency here. Already under the salary cap, the team would like Stokes' contract to be more cap friendly, but likely wont want to extend it after a less than super season. Still Stokes is viewed as part of the team's plans, and his willingness to accept his role and work with the team could be awarded long before Owens is.

The 49ers are quite good shape this early in the free agency period and have already re-signed their fifth free agent priority, offensive tackle Matt Willig. As the team looks to find a few more dollars to play with, they likely will seek some assistance from JJ Stokes, but if the cap relief comes at the expense of adding more seasons to the contract, the team may shy away. All in all it's been an interesting few days, and great to see the players being so cooperative with the team. It's likely to continue to be exciting throughout the off-season, especially with the 49ers having some 'extra' cash lying around.

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