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The San Francisco 49ers made a big move at a need position during the NFL free agent tampering period.

In need of an upgrade at cornerback, general manager John Lynch and Co. inked Charvarius Ward to a three-year contract that could be worth up to $42 million.

As we saw during the NFC Championship Game this past January, cornerback was a major Achilles’ heel for San Francisco. Both Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp went off (20 combined receptions, 255 yards) in the Los Angeles Rams’ win over San Francisco.

Adding Ward, 25, to the mix is going to give the 49ers more depth and talent at one of the game’s most-important positions. He’ll team up with Emmanuel Moseley and youngster Ambry Thomas moving forward.

An undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State back in 2018, Ward morphed into one of the better cover guys during his four-year run with the Kansas City Chiefs. That includes being a full-time starter over the past three seasons.

Ward yielded a 51.3% completion mark and 79.4 quarterback rating when targeted a season ago. Both would have repesented team bests for the 49ers.


However, there’s also a financial component to this signing. San Francisco had to get under the salary cap ahead of the start of the new league year Wednesday afternoon. It opted to restucture the contracts of Dee Ford, George Kittle and Arik Armstead — saving $23.4 million against the cap.

With the Jimmy Garoppolo situation still unsettled, this became a necessity if the 49ers wanted to make Ward’s deal official. Per Spotrac, the 49ers will now head into the official start of free agency $8.8 million under the cap. The expectation is that more extensions and restructures could come here soon.

Breaking Down The Finances Of Charvarius Ward’s Contract

The three-year deal is technically for $40.5 million with Ward being able to earn an additional $1.5 million in incentives. He’s guaranteed a total of $26.7 million with the fully guaranteed cash still not known.

Looking at how salary cap guru and vice president Paraag Marathe structures contracts, it’s safe to say that the larger cap hits will be pushed back to 2023 and 2024. That’s when the NFL salary cap is expected to increase big time due to the league’s new television contract with networks and streaming devices.

For now, we can probably draw the conclusion that Ward’s cap hit with the San Francisco 49ers for the 2022 season will come in at less than $8 million.

Prior to this signing, the 49ers were paying out a mere $9.4 million in cap room next season to their cornerback group. That ranks 24th in the NFL. Needless to say, Lynch and Co. had to actually pony up some cash to go up with the big boys in the NFC West. They did just that with Ward.

The question now becomes whether San Francisco is done adding corners during free agency. They have two in-house candidates to re-sign with the team in that of K’Waun Williams and the injury-plagued Jason Verrett with the latter potentially set to return on a bare minimum contract after tearing his ACL Week 1 of last season. Williams might actually be a tougher sell given how he’s performed from the slot corner spot and San Francisco’s less-than-stellar cap situation.

How The San Francisco 49ers Can Create More Cap Room After Signing Charvarius Ward

As noted above, the Garoppolo situation remains unsettled. Firmly on the trade block, the Super Bowl quarterback likely won’t be moved until the Houston Texans finalize a Deshaun Watson trade. That would leave Garoppolo as the best quarterback on the market.

With that said, there’s a sense that something must get done in short order when it comes to a Garoppolo trade. Moving off him would save San Francisco $25.55 million against the cap — creating enough cap room to sign free agents at other areas of need.

MORE FROM FORBESSan Francisco 49ers on the Forbes NFL Team Valuations List

It’s rather clear that the 49ers’ brass is willing to push large cap hits back to future years. By restructuring Armstead, San Francisco is set to see the defensive lineman count $24.4 million against the cap in 2023 and a $25.9 million figure in 2024. That’s a whole lot of cash.

If this modus operandi continues, we could see some other restructures coming up here soon. That includes Trent Williams and Jimmie Ward, which would save San Francisco another $11 million against the cap. Meanwhile, releasing edge rusher Samson Ebukam would save another $6.5 million against the cap.

Source: Forbes

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