49ers, Raiders near league bottom in free cap space


49ers, Raiders near league bottom in free cap space

Both the 49ers and Raiders rank near the bottom of the league in available cap space, according to ProFootballTalk's recent calculations.

The Raiders rank second-to-last in the league with just 1.34 million in available space, and this number does not reflect the four-year, 26.6 million deal Tyvon Branch signed on Saturday. The details are not yet available, but that comes out to an average of 6.65 million per year. However, the contract likely contains a heafty singing bonus and is backloaded (as is the case with most NFL contracts), meaning most of the base salary is slated to be paid in the later years of the contract. Obviously, Branch cannot possibly be due more than 1.34 million this season.

The 49ers rank at No. 23, with 3.39 million in free space.

Each team is last in their division in terms of cap space, although the Rams are just one slot better than the 49ers with 3.60 million available.

NFC West AFC West
Seahawks: 8.47 million Chiefs: 16.54 million
Cardinals: 4.55 million Broncos: 11.71 million
Rams: 3.60 million Chargers: 2.86 million
49ers: 3.39 million Raiders: 1.34 million

49ers and Raiders' biggest contracts in 2012:

San Francisco Oakland
Justin Smith: 5.875 million Tommy Kelly: 6 million
Vernon Davis: 5.75 million Darren McFadden: 5.65 million
Alex Smith: 4 million Darrius Heyward-Bey: 5.23 million
Donte Whitner: 3.92 million Shane Lenchler: 3.8 million
Carlos Rodgers: 3.9 million Ronald Bartell: 3 million
Isaac Sopoaga: 3.8 million
Michael Crabtree: 3.5 million Other notables
LaMichael James: 3.32 million Sebastian Janikowski: 1.7 million
3.8 million in 2013
Other notables Roland McClain: 970 thousand
Frank Gore: 2 million base 4 million in '13, 5.8 million in '14
4 million in potential bonuses Richard Seymour: 925 thousand
Patrick Willis: 1.9 million in 2012 7.5 million in 2013-2016
2.4 million in 2013, 5.3 million in 2014, Carson Palmer: 825 thousand base
7 million in 2015, 7.9 million in 2016 11.675 million signing bonus
Joe Staley: 1.3 million in 2012 Michael Huff: 700 thousand base
1.6 million in 2013, 2.2 million in 2014, 7.3 million signing bonus
4 million in 2015, 4.9 million in 2016, Mike Brisiel: 700 thousand in 2012
5.75 million in 2017 4.35 million in 2013
Mario Manninghamn: 1.2 million base 3.85 million in 2014-2016
4 million in potential bonuses Aaron Curry: 615 thousand in 2012
3 million in 2013

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense


What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine


49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.