Over the last couple of weeks, I've begun putting together a run-down on how the NFC West rosters are built for the long-run, and to do this, I've studied each franchise's age, salary cap and history of player acquisition.
If you missed my breakdown of the Seahawks, check these out first:
Having broken down the Niners' offense, let's move on to their defense.
I put together the current 49ers 40 man defense with age, cap, and draft information. My guess on the 25 players that will make the final roster are in yellow, with NaVorro Bowman and Keith Reaser on some sort of PUP/IR list. I have the 49ers currently with 11 defensive linemen, 12 linebackers, 8 safeties, and 9 corners (40 defenders, 4 special teamers, 46 offensive players).
All salary cap figures are courtesy of OverTheCap.com, an excellent resource.
The 49ers are well constructed, in terms of their club control, looking forward to 2015. They have only five players (that I have projected to make the final 2014 roster) that will be unrestricted free agents (UFA) in 2015. Those five are DT Glenn Dorsey, OLB Dan Skuta, S CJ Spillman, CB Chris Culliver and CB Eric Wright. The two biggest names on that list are Dorsey and Culliver. Wright's spot will likely be taken by CB Keith Reaser when Reaser is healthy in 2015. Spillman is a special teams player. That's it.
Right now, I have the 49ers at $69M in cap commitments to their "top 21" defensive players in 2015. I believe a good estimate for a budget is closer to $65M on either side of the ball. I don't believe the 49ers will re-sign Dorsey or Culliver with their limited cap room. I also believe they will seek to restructure the 5th Year Tender for Aldon Smith of $9.754M for 2015.
However, even if the 49ers are able to restructure Aldon Smith or extend him to bring that cap figure down in 2015, I believe they will have to move on from either Justin Smith or Ahmad Brooks as cap casualties. Letting go of Brooks would create $5.3M in cap room. Brooks is 30 years old today. Justin Smith is 34 years old today. Cutting Justin Smith in 2015 would create $4.2M in cap room. Aldon Smith is only 24 years old today, and I can't see the 49ers giving up on him.
The 49ers spend a lot of money on their front-seven, and have created that room by going young and cheap at cornerback. They have gone younger at safety with Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward (Yes, I know Ward is starting out as a nickel corner). They have spent back-to-back 1st round picks on safeties, which shows how much they value the position, and it also works out well for their cap in the next 3-to-4 years, with Reid and Ward with very manageable cap figures early in their career.
The 49ers have six first round picks on their defense: Justin Smith, Glenn Dorsey, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Eric Reid, and Jimmie Ward. I have projected six undrafted players that I think will make 49ers' final roster (as compared to two on the offensive side). Those six are Ian Williams, Dan Skuta, Michael Wilhoite, C.J. Spillman, Craig Dahl, and Tramaine Brock (on offense I have Alex Boone and Garrett Celek).
The 49ers are getting a little older on defense: Justin Smith is 34, Ahmad Brooks is 30, Patrick Willis is 29, Ray McDonald is 29, and Antoine Bethea is 29.
The Rams are up next.