Will the 49ers soon be forced to shift gears financially from defense to offense?
While the 49ers' primary focus is on the 2020 season and getting back to the Super Bowl, it's no secret the team is looking to lock up some of its primary pieces on offense for the foreseeable future.
As premier players, both tight end George Kittle and tackle Trent Williams seem to be priorities moving forward. And in order to pay those two the huge deals they'll command, some tough decisions will have to be pondered. Odds are, those decisions will be made on the defensive side of the ball.
First and foremost, the Niners will either say goodbye to former number three overall draft pick Solomon Thomas, or re-sign him for far less than the $9 million he'll count against to cap in 2020. Also, with the emergence of Dre Greenlaw at linebacker, there's almost no chance Kwon Alexander has more than one season left in red and gold, as his cap hit will rise from $4.5 million in 2020 to $16.5 million in 2021.
Thomas and Alexander are the easy choices; where it gets more complicated is what the team will do with Richard Sherman and Dee Ford.
While Sherman has been as advertised for San Francisco, the veteran corner is entering the last year of his deal and has about a $14 million cap hit. How he performs in his age 32 season will go a long way in determining if he's back next year. There's also been talk about him moving to safety, but that remains to be seen.
Ford is another difficult case because his presence makes the pass rush so much more dominant.
The 49ers were a different team with him in the lineup in 2019, but knee issues will always make his availability a cause for concern. Ford's cap hit is $15.8 million, and that will only go up from there, escalating to $17.6 million in 2021 and then $18.6 million the final two years of his contract.
It will be interesting to see how things play out and if performance or injuries change the perception on any of the players mentioned above. Regardless of what happens, there are worse problems for a team to have, as it's been a long time since the Niners have employed so many pieces worthy of large dollar figures
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