Is 2024 The Last Dance For The 49ers? 

Coming off of a Super Bowl appearance this past season, the 49ers are expected to be one of the best teams in the league yet again in 2024. Their betting line of 11.5 wins is tied for the highest win total projection of any team and it would be a big surprise if they didn’t crack double-digit victories. 

Deebo Samuel

Yet there’s undeniably a sense of tension around the team this offseason. San Francisco came up short against the Chiefs yet again in February as Kansas City snatched a ring away from the 49ers for the second time in four years. That’s put even more urgency on the upcoming 2024 season because it might be the last chance for the 49ers to contend for a while. 

The 49ers propped their Super Bowl wide open thanks to QB Brock Purdy, who not only provided quality production at the game’s most important position but did so as the biggest bargain in the sport. Purdy’s four-year, $3.7 million rookie contract as the last pick in the 2022 draft pays him an average of $934,000 per season — exponentially less than the top of the quarterback market. That has allowed San Francisco to load up the rest of the roster around Purdy. 

But nothing good lasts forever. The 49ers will have to pay Purdy next offseason — a lot. That will fundamentally change how San Francisco approaches roster construction and trigger some hard decisions. This shift also coincides with a natural inflection point for many of the 49ers’ aging core players. Guys like LT Trent Williams, TE George Kittle, WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner and more are reaching natural inflection points, whether it’s due to their age, contract or both. 

By this time next year, the 49ers could look a lot different. 

How Much Will Purdy Cost? 

It’s already been a big offseason for quarterback contracts. The Lions extended QB Jared Goff on a deal that includes an average annual salary of $53 million per year. That deal ranked second only to Bengals QB Joe Burrow at $55 million a year until the Jaguars gave QB Trevor Lawrence a deal equal to Burrow. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, Packers QB Jordan Love and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott are all up for new deals and should sign this summer, or next March at the absolute latest in the case of Prescott. 

All of these deals have or will define the quarterback market for the 49ers and Purdy and it’s clear the price is not going down. Purdy has made a compelling case to be included in this cohort of quarterbacks. 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan has a long history of getting competent production out of just about every quarterback who’s suited up for him, but Purdy has excelled even beyond the norm for a Shanahan quarterback. Last year, he started 16 games and threw for 4,280 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing just a shade under 70 percent of his attempts. He led the NFL in yards per attempts, quarterback rating (conventional and ESPN’s QBR) and adjusted net yards per attempt. He was even in the MVP conversation. 

Most importantly from San Francisco’s point of view, Purdy has a 17-4 record as a starter dating back to his rookie year and a 4-2 record in the playoffs. Barring some kind of massive collapse in 2024, Purdy should sign a deal equally as lucrative as the QBs already mentioned when the time comes, especially considering the expected growth in the salary cap. 

The 49ers made QB Jimmy Garoppolo the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback briefly in 2018. Purdy has established far more than Garoppolo already and has a credible case to receive the same treatment. With other quarterbacks still set to potentially sign contracts before San Francisco can extend Purdy, $55 million a year might end up being a bargain. 

How Will The Rest Of The Roster Be Impacted? 

Paying Purdy more than $55 million a year instead of less than $1 million will force the 49ers to change the way they build their team. The team already started that process this offseason, cutting DL Arik Armstead to save a major chunk of cash and exploring trading either Samuel or WR Brandon Aiyuk

Here’s what the current core of the team looks like now, with how old they’ll be this year and their average annual salary: 

Name Age AAV
Nick Bosa 27 $34M
Trent Williams 36 $23M
Christian McCaffrey 28 $19M
Deebo Samuel 28 $24M
Fred Warner 28 $19M
George Kittle 31 $15M
Brandon Aiyuk 26 $14M*
Javon Hargrave 31 $20M
Charvarius Ward 28 $13M

*2024 salary under fifth-year option

Everyone on this list is still playing at a high level but several are either approaching 30 years old or are already past it. That starts to make longevity more of a concern. Some players continue to play at a high level into their 30s. Many don’t. 

Several other key players are also scheduled to be free agents in 2025, including most notably Aiyuk unless extension talks become more fruitful than they have been to this point. Others include Ward, S Talanoa Hufanga, G Aaron Banks, LB Dre Greenlaw and CB Deommodore Lenoir. All five are starters. 

The last piece of the puzzle is the 49ers’ cap situation. San Francisco has a little over $32 million in cap space right now, per Over The Cap. That’s near the top of the league and could give the 49ers flexibility at the trade deadline if they look to make a move. But more than likely most of that will be rolled over to 2025 when San Francisco is a projected $36 million in the red. 

That does not include a new deal for Purdy or a new deal for Aiyuk. But it also only accounts for a projected salary cap of $260 million — less than $5 million more than the cap this year. No one knows how much the cap will increase next year but odds are it will be by a lot more than $5 million. All of that will lessen the 49ers’ current deficit but not enough to spare them from having to make some hard choices. 

Of the team’s core players, Purdy, Bosa and McCaffrey are locks to be back and under contract in 2025. How the season shakes out in 2024 will likely dictate who else the 49ers want to bring back — or even who they’re able to. 

We’ll know before the start of the season whether the 49ers can extend Aiyuk. If they do, it will make it harder for them to keep both Samuel and Kittle in 2025. If they can’t extend Aiyuk, they could always franchise tag him in 2025, but that would be a significant burden on their cap in addition to the Purdy deal. It makes it more likely that Aiyuk walks as a free agent. 

Guys like Williams, Warner and Kittle have been core pieces of both Super Bowl runs and it’s hard to imagine the 49ers without them. Hargrave was a key addition last season with seven sacks. All four are due significant base salaries in 2025, however, and to see that money they have to continue producing at the level they have so far. That’s just the harsh reality of the NFL. Williams is old enough to where retirement becomes an annual consideration, and Warner actually has an option in his deal after this season that the 49ers will need to pick up to trigger two more years on his deal. 

Ward would have to play at an outstanding level to justify a new deal as a 29-year-old cornerback in 2025, even though he’s been a quality No. 1 corner for the 49ers the past two years. San Francisco also has Lenoir, CB Ambry Thomas and CB Isaac Yiadom on expiring contracts, so cornerback could see a lot of turnover. The team has been drafting prospects for a few years now to try and build a pipeline to lean on here. Hufanga is also a notable pending free agent, and the former All-Pro will be returning this season from a torn ACL looking to set himself up for a significant contract. 

Given how the 49ers have de-prioritized the interior of their offensive line, it’s hard to see them paying up to re-sign Banks if he has a strong contract year. Greenlaw is another question mark but he’s coming off a torn Achilles sustained in the Super Bowl and might not be expensive to keep next offseason. The 49ers could save $10 million by cutting DT Maliek Collins in 2025 and he’d have to have a huge season to prevent San Francisco from taking that option. 

This year, the 49ers are returning 18 of 22 starters (give or take) from last year’s Super Bowl squad. In 2025, it’s entirely possible the 49ers are breaking in two or three times as many new starters and starting a new phase of their team build. 

Winning the Super Bowl wouldn’t prevent that. But it would take a lot of the sting out, and leave the 49ers without the feeling of having missed on a massive opportunity. 

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