Pundits and fans have been saying for the last three years that the Niners are in win-now mode. Does superstar pass-rusher Nick Bosa’s monster deal make that speculation iron-clad for the 2023 season?
Or is there a chance that the Niners have a system figured out that doesn’t revolve around the consensus most important position in sports?
Let’s dive into Bosa’s re-integration to the Bay Area faithful and the implications for the team both this year and down the road.
Nick Bosa is now the highest-paid NFL player of all time, outside of the quarterback position.
It didn’t look like it in the San Francisco 49ers season opening 30-7 shellacking of the Pittsuburgh Steelers this past Sunday, but that’s because it didn’t need to. The team, on both sides of the ball, absolutely ran riot.
He was only on the field for 35 of the team’s 63 defensive snaps and the Niners started the game by forcing five straight three-and-outs (one ending in a pick, the other four in punts).
According to Sports Illustrated, Bosa reported to the team just 72 hours before the game, around the time the ink was drying on his new megadeal that will keep him at the Niners for five more years.
Throughout the offseason, reports were quiet on where exactly Bosa and the Niners differed in their specifics. Making him the highest paid non-quarterback in the league’s history was almost a guarantee, given his absurd productivity since entering the league.
In the end, a contract was signed which lays out that the former Ohio State edge rusher and 2019 number two overall draft pick will take home $170m over five years with $122.5m in total guarantees. This numbers an average of around $34m per season. But how does the contract breakdown specifically?
Per NBC Sports, this is how it looks:
- 2023 signing bonus – $50m fully guaranteed (fg)
- 2023 salary – $1.01m (fg)
- 2024 option bonus: $15.230m (fg)
- 2024 base salary: $1.125m (fg)
- 2025 compensation: $20.35m fg at signing, $10.050529m guaranteed for injury at signing, becoming fully guaranteed on April 1, 2024. (The payment comes in the form of an option bonus — $29.015529m — and a base salary of $1.17m.)
- 2026 base salary: $22.68m
- 2027 base salary: $32.679m
There are also per-game roster bonuses each game that amount to around $500,000 per season.
The deal equates to $88m guaranteed at signing over three years and by April 1, 2025, this turns to $122.5m. The Niners could, in theory, get out of this by cutting him after two seasons.
On a three-year rate, the Niners are paying Bosa more than Buffalo Bills superstar quarterback Josh Allen, Two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Donald, who many regard to be the greatest defensive player of all time.
The really shocking part though, is that they’ve done this while *gaining* 2023 cap space, or available money their team can spend.
Specifically, the Niners have $42m of it, more than any other NFL team.
They’ve managed it through complex bonus structures in Bosa’s deal including front-loading his deal to massive signing bonuses while keeping his yearly salary very low and scheduling in other huge one-off payments for future seasons.
It is a system so ingrained in Niners culture at this point, it’s become synonymous with the team’s front office. Draft A-list players, pay them handsomely once proven and fill the rest of the gaps with a revolving door of free agent talent.
Bosa represents just another iteration of this, following deals for linebacker Fred Warner in 2021 and wide receiver Deebo Samuel in 2022.
In order to get this deal done, the Niners had to restructure the contracts of several other star players. Offensive lineman Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle and defensive lineman Arik Armstead all saw their deals move to bonus-loaded agreements with yearly salaries cut right down.
This amounted to $34.9m in available cap space for this year, plus the $4.9m from Bosa’s deal structure.
This would be the point to re-iterate just how ‘win-now’ the Niners are. For the third or fourth year in a row, they have the most stacked roster in the league without exception and many bookies are expecting them to reach and win a Super Bowl (these free betting options for this wager are available at top sportsbooks)
Outside of Bosa, seven players on the Niners roster will command a cap hit this year of around $165m. The total available for each NFL team this year is $224.8m which could increase or decrease yearly going forward depending on the NFL’s total revenues.
Two more budding stars on the roster, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk who went off for 129 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Steelers and safety Talanoa Hufanga, will likely see high-value contracts when their current deals end next year and so the Niners cycle continues.
What it hasn’t produced yet is a Super Bowl, the last coming in 1995 from hall of famer Steve Young. Indeed the boys from the bay haven’t committed major money to a quarterback since Young and many feel that this has been the missing link.
Not for lack of trying, mind you. Two years ago the team executed what is arguably one of the worst trades in the history of sports; three first round picks and a third rounder to get Trey Lance, a relatively unproven quarterback from North Dakota State University.
Lance never looked comfortable as a Niner and was sidelined through injury for the majority of his two seasons with the team before head coach Kyle Shanahan cut his losses and traded him to the Dallas Cowboys before the start of this season.
The team now rides with the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Iowa State alum Brock Purdy.
‘It’s a quarterback league’ is a common phrase amongst modern NFL fans, highlighting the exponentially-increasing passing yardages thrown by young quarterbacks in the league.
Teams that draft superstar quarterbacks have four years where their talismans earn minimal cash, allowing them to spend big on the rest of the team and thus increase winning
But if the Niners can win with ‘Mr Irrelevant’ Brock Purdy – who just broke an NFL record for winning his first six league starts and throwing two touchdowns in each – maybe their system isn’t worth writing off yet.
But it might be if the Lombardi trophy isn’t head for the Bay come February 11th next year.