NFL teams are constantly doing gymnastics to stay underneath the salary cap from year to year.
As the 49ers continue to make a flurry of moves with Wednesday’s 1 p.m. PT league reset imminent, cornerback Charvarius "Mooney" Ward and linebacker Fred Warner reportedly restructured their deals to give the team more cap flexibility.
According to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, more than $12 million of Ward’s salary has been converted into a signing bonus that will be paid out between now and 2027. According to ESPN's Field Yates, Warner's restructure freed up more than $9.5 million. These moves have freed up nearly $20 million in cap space this offseason, per Wagoner.
An old favorite of some front offices is to tack on empty years to a players contract, also known as void years. Ward’s pact essentially has two real years remaining and three additional void years, meaning the 49ers added $12.3 million in future dead money onto the payroll, according to Over the Cap. They’ll eat about $4.9 million in 2025, $4.9 million in 2026, and about $2.5 million in 2027.
Details weren't immediately available about Warner's restructure. The star middle linebacker is coming off his second All-Pro season and is widely regarded as as the best all around LB in the game.
Ward signed a three-year, $40.5 million contract with the 49ers last offseason and was their undoubted CB1. He started off strong but faded a bit toward the end of the year as he also dealt with groin and concussion issues. According to Pro Football Reference, Ward set career highs in tackles (87) and passes defended (11) last year with the Niners. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 6 cornerback in the NFL with an 81.0 overall grade, including the second-best ranking (91.0) against the run.
So far, the negotiating window that started Monday morning has been highlighted by a four-year, $84 million contract with prized defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and a one-year, incentive-laden deal for quarterback Sam Darnold.
The 49ers have also retained safety Tashaun Gipson, center Jake Brendel and offensive tackle Colton McKivitz, defensive lineman Kevin Givens while losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders), right tackle Mike McGlinchey (Broncos), offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill, safety Jimmie Ward (Texans), linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (Titans), defensive end Samson Ebukam, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (Lions) and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (Texans) in free agency.
Newly-minted NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa is expected to get a huge contract extension negotiated this offseason, but that wouldn’t kick in until 2024. Bosa is set to make $17.9 million in 2023, the final year of his rookie contract.