With 10 days to go until the season opener, the 49ers have begun the process of finalizing their 53-man roster. It doesn't sound like free-agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney is going to be a part of it.
"We're out of cash," 49ers general manager John Lynch said with a chuckle Thursday on KNBR's "Murph and Mac Show." "That'd be nice, all these guys, I love adding great players, but ... we've got a salary cap, and we're pressed up against it. But we feel really good about our team, that's the good news, going into Week 1."
Though Lynch's comments provide some certainty, it's not as if they come as a shock. The 49ers already have a very strong defensive line without Clowney, and he's far too rich for their blood anyway.
According to Over The Cap, San Francisco currently has just over $8.5 million in effective cap space, and Clowney has been holding out in search of a far bigger payday, which is the main reason why he remains unsigned.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft spent last season with the Seattle Seahawks, but reportedly turned down a one-year, $15 million contract from Seattle earlier in the offseason, presumably expecting to be able to get more on the open market. However, it appears Clowney might have miscalculated, as there aren't many teams that currently have the ability to top that offer.
That said, it sounds like Clowney will be signing somewhere very soon. In order to clear COVID-19 protocols and be eligible to play in Week 1, Clowney must sign with a team by this weekend.
ESPN's Dianna Russini reported Thursday, citing sources, that the Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints are making "strong pushes" for Clowney. Meanwhile, Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars are keeping tabs on his situation.
NFL Media's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported, citing sources, that Clowney has spoken multiple times with Saints coach Sean Payton.
The Saints currently have even less effective cap space than the 49ers according to Over The Cap, so in order to sign Clowney to a contract that would be agreeable to both sides, New Orleans likely would have to find a way to create more space by cutting costs elsewhere. NFL Media's Mike Garafolo reported that the Saints are attempting to do that by restructuring contracts of players currently on the roster.
Though the Saints currently have the least cap space of any of the teams reported to be in the mix for Clowney's services, it's easy to see the appeal for both player and team. In Clowney, the Saints would be adding a player capable of taking their defense up a notch or two, while New Orleans would provide him with an opportunity to star for one of the Super Bowl favorites.
The 49ers have the best odds to emerge out of the NFC, but the Saints are right behind them in second. You can be sure that gap will shrink if New Orleans signs Clowney.
Almost every scenario in which Clowney leaves the NFC West would be great for the 49ers, but him ending up with arguably their greatest threat within the conference wouldn't qualify.