Having put together a run-down on how the Seahawks' roster is built for the long-run, I thought it would be interesting to study the rosters of the other NFC West teams as well. My goal was to understand their age, salary cap and history of player acquisition.
If you missed my breakdown of the Seahawks, check these out first:
As for the rest of the West, I start with the 49ers offense. From what I can gather, the 49ers are carrying five quarterbacks, 11 receivers, nine running backs and fullbacks, five tight ends, and 16 offensive linemen, for 46 total offensive players.
If you study where the players were acquired, the 49ers have done an amazing job of drafting players to their offense. This is most obvious on the offensive line and running back groups, and the only offensive position group where they have had to repeatedly go outside to get non-"homegrown" players is at receiver (Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson, for instance).
You can also see the quality of the players their roster holds -- 11 of the 25 players I have projected to the opening day roster were drafted in the 1st or 2nd round.
I also think it is pretty obvious who is going to make the roster, barring injury or some undrafted rookie going on fire this summer. The players I thought would make the roster are in yellow. The only players that were a debate in my mind were LaMichael James and possibly Josh Johnson. Brandon Thomas will be on some sort of IR with an ACL tear (UPDATE: Thomas will go to the non-football injury list, and Trey Millard, who I list below as one of the final 53, may start the year on an inactive list as well).
All salary cap figures are courtesy of OverTheCap.com, an excellent resource.
There are seven notable players on the offense that are set to hit unrestricted free agency (UFA) in 2015. Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder. Colin Kaepernick will be extended after June 1st (and Carlos Rogers' dead money can be spread over two years). Frank Gore is 31 years old. Adam Snyder is 32 and the 49ers have another quality lineman in waiting in Brandon Thomas.
The decisions really come down to Mike Iupati and Michael Crabtree. Iupati is 27 years old and Crabtree is 26 years old, and both are former 1st round Draft picks that should be expected to get big money.
Using the "yellow" roster I projected above, I have the 49ers at $44M in cap spend on 17 players for 2015. I am using a budget of $65M per side of the ball (which I believe is the correct number when you project the 2015 salary cap, minus specialists, IR, dead money, and the practice squad).
That leaves about $21M for Kaepernick, Iupati, Crabtree and five other "rookie contract type" players. I don't think that will be enough. Unless Kaep, Crabtree and Iupati take below market deals, I don't see all three staying unless the 49ers cut, extend, or re-do either Boldin or Johnson. A Boldin cut only creates $3.2M in cap room in 2015, while Stevie Johnson entire cap hit of $6.025M could come off the books with zero dead money (so the 49ers could get a full $6.025M in relief if they cut Stevie Johnson). Johnson is only 27 years old right now, while Boldin is 33 years old, so that could also be a factor.
Bottom line, though, all in all, the 49ers are still constructed quite well for the future (2015), with a cheap running back group (sans Gore) that can now offset the cost of extending a pricier Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco is aging a bit on offense, though -- Boldin turns 34 this October, Vernon Davis will be 31 in 2015, and Joe Staley will be 31 on opening day in 2015.
I will also try to construct the 49ers defense soon, and have already begun work on the Rams.