Easy money? How the 49ers can save

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Following up on our previous items about NFC West salary-cap situations, here's a look at how the 49ers could create additional cap space heading into free agency:

Current cap room: $12 million

Projected functional cap room for free agency: $20 million to $30 million

How the 49ers could create more room: The 49ers plan to release quarterback Alex Smith or rework his contract. Releasing Smith would clear $7 million in 2009 cap space.

The chart shows the difference between how much selected players' contracts count against the salary cap depending on roster status. I generally singled out players you have asked about through the mailbag or comments sections of various blog entries. The team appears to want Smith back at a reduced rate. Jonas Jennings appears vulnerable to release.

Most of the 49ers' higher-priced players remain productive starters, from Justin Smith to Frank Gore to Nate Clements.