The numbers are in as far as Justin Smith’s contract, and it appears to me (a guy who stinks with money) that it’s a wise deal for the 49ers. Why is it wise? As you can see, the biggest base salaries come in the final three years of the deal. Smith received about $11 million to sign, an amount that is prorated over the life of the contract. He got another $9 or so million in other bonuses that are front-loaded, thus offsetting the relatively low base salaries in the early years of his contract. That means that if Smith is released before, say, the 2012 season, the 49ers only would be on the hook, salary cap-wise, for the remainder of his signing bonus, which would be about $3.7 million. Q.E.D.
Base salaries, according to the NFL Players Association
Other base salaries, according to NFLPA
-- Matt Barrows