Over the last 11 years, the 49ers have committed more than $135 million in guaranteed money to 15 first-round draft picks, according to information obtained by The Bee. That includes guarantees of $14.7 million and $10.8 million respectively to last year's first-round picks, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, both of whom started all 16 contests.
But the team also has doled out big money to first rounders who failed to make a splash. Defensive end Kentwan Balmer, the 29th overall pick who was traded away to Seattle in the summer, received $6.1 million guaranteed, while Rashaun Woods, the 31st overall pick in 2004, got $4.3 million. Woods caught only seven passes for the 49ers, lasted only two seasons and is now out of football. Quarterback Alex Smith, who is deciding whether to return for a seventh season, got a $24 million guarantee as the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.
One of the issues currently being debated by the owners and players is rookie compensation, which the owners insist has become rampant in recent years especially when it comes to first-round players. The league says contracts for first-round picks have increased 223 percent over the last decade.
The league wants to free more than $1.2 billion over the next four years and divert the savings to veterans and player benefits. The owners also propose fixing first-round contracts at five years and discouraging holdouts by reducing the maximum allowable salary if a rookie doesn't sign his contract by the start of training camp. The NFL says there would be no negative impact on players drafted in rounds two through seven. Those contracts would be fixed at four years.
Opponents argue that the problems cited by the teams are their own making.
"People don't realize that Rashaun Woods and JaMarcus Russell didn't draft themselves," said agent Don Yee. "The owners want others to protect them from their own poor decisons. That's basically what's going on."
Yee said that the owners have the ability to correct the issue under the previous system. If owners feel a player and his agent are demanding too much money, he said, they simply shouldn't sign him.
The 49ers have the No. 7 pick in the draft this year. In 2001, they paid Andre Carter, drafted seventh overall, $9.7 million in guarantees. Under the previous system, the price tag for that selection would be about $27.5 million, perhaps more if it's a quarterback. Last year's No. 7 pick, Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, received $25.6 million in guarantees. The year before that, the Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey got $23.5 million guaranteed, according to documents obtained by The Bee.
49ers guaranteed compensation:
2010: Anthony Davis, No. 11 overall: $14.7 million
2010: Mike Iupati, No. 17 overall: $10.8 million
2009: Michael Crabtree, No. 10 overall: $12.1 million
2008: Kentwan Balmer, No. 29 overall: $6.1 million
2007: Patrick Willis, No. 11 overall: $11.6 million
2007: Joe Staley, No. 28 overall: $5.5 million
2006: Vernon Davis, No. 6 overall: $15.4 million
2006: Manny Lawson, No. 22 overall: $5.9 million
2005: Alex Smith, No. 1 overall: $24 million
2004: Rashaun Woods, No. 31 overall: $4.3 million
2003: Kwame Harris, No. 26 overall: $4 million
2002: Mike Rumph, No. 27 overall: $3.5 million
2001: Andre Carter, No. 7 overall: $9.7 million
2000: Julian Peterson, No. 16 overall: $4.8 million
2000: Ahmed Plummer, No. 24 overall: $3.2 million
-- Matt Barrows