Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
There’s another contract restructure for the San Francisco 49ers. The can keeps kicking down the road, though this time, it makes complete sense for all involved parties.
According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team restructured Laken Tomlinson’s contract, saving $1.34 million this season by converting his salary into bonus money. What this does is turn that salary into additional guaranteed money in future seasons.
A couple of teams restructured contracts of starting guards by converting salary into bonuses to create 2020 cap space:
▪️Buccaneers with Ali Marpet: $4.125M created
▪️49ers with Laken Tomlinson (voidable years added): $1.34M created
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 21, 2020
Tomlinson already had $3 million of his 2020 salary become guaranteed on April 1, per OverTheCap, so this likely guarantees the remaining $500,000, and gives him additional guaranteed money in at least 2021 and 2022 (when he’s out of contract with the team). Yates’ report suggests there were at least two void years added.
General manager John Lynch said on KNBR on September 3 that the 49ers were “pressed up against” the $198.2 million salary cap, and affirmed that after the Ziggy Ansah signing.
“We’re pressing the limit pretty good,” Lynch said. “You can always be creative and figure out ways to get things done, but this year, it’s legit. I’m not just saying it. We’re up there pretty good.”
The 49ers have used void years before, in restructuring the contracts of Weston Richburg, Kwon Alexander and Jerick McKinnon. What it means is that once a player’s contract expires, they are still due that guaranteed money, but it’s generally much less than the pro-rated bonus money they were schedule to receive.
This move would bring Tomlinson’s 2020 cap hit down to $4,410,000 from a previous $5,750,000. It’s difficult to calculate what his cap hit will be next season, because it’s unclear how many void years were added, but it’s unlikely to rise by more than $670,000, which is half of that restructured money. Again, this depends on how many void years the team added, but it will raise Tomlinson’s cap hit in 2021 and guarantee him money in at least 2022.
Unlike with the Alexander and Richburg extensions, though, Tomlinson was already likely to be on the roster in 2021. The reason that’s important is that if a player with a restructured contract is cut early, all of that money in voided years is amortized, coming due immediately. According to OverTheCap, that’s a combined $2,331,142 for Richburg and $4,176,179 for Alexander.
Because Tomlinson will likely live out the final year of his deal, the benefit of those cheap void years will likely remain in place, unlike Alexander and Richburg, who could well be cut before then.
However, if Tomlinson does not sign an extension with the team, the full amount of those void years will come due immediately, the same as with those Alexander and Richburg deals. If he does extend his contract, that pro-rated money for those seasons will remain in place.
One other potential benefit to this is that if the 49ers don’t use that extra $1.34 million of cap space, it rolls over into 2021, when the salary cap is expected to drop due to lost revenues from COVID-19.
The minimum number the cap could be set at is $175 million, which would be a $28.2 million drop from this season. The cap normally rises by roughly $10 million each season.
Even though the 49ers are guaranteeing more money to Tomlinson next year, that rollover would be more than the additional new guarantee money. The additional void year money, kicked down the road into 2022 and potentially beyond, should come in seasons when revenues are expected to climb again.