INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL salary cap, instituted in 1994, was partially a reaction to the free-spending San Francisco 49ers of the Eddie DeBartolo era.
The cap is likely to disappear next week, as the league's owners and players' union report no progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
But the 49ers' plan for the start of free agency will remain unchanged under the ownership of Denise and John York. The organization will impose its own salary cap — also known as a budget.
“For us it doesn't change a thing,” said 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, speaking Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“We're not going to be considered a big free-agency team. We're going to do what we need to do in free agency if it's going to make us better. But it's not going to change our spending one way or the other.”
Since McCloughan came to the 49ers as director of player personnel in 2005, the club has extended big-money contracts in free agency to attract such players as tackle Jonas Jennings, defensive backs Nate Clements and Michael Lewis, and defensive lineman Justin Smith. Those upgrades were needed to help bring some talent to a depleted roster, McCloughan said.
The 49ers are not expected to show much interest this year in any potential high-priced free agents, such as defensive end Julius Peppers, cornerback Dunta Robinson or linebacker Karlos Dansby.
After all, if the 49ers were to loft a big contract onto a free agent, it might limit their ability to offer contract extensions to some of their own players, McCloughan said.
“You want to take care of your own players who are producing for you,” he said.
The 49ers have used their franchise tag on nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, who is scheduled to make $7 million on a one-year tender.
Quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Vernon Davis, safety Dashon Goldson and outside linebacker Manny Lawson are among the 49ers who are not signed past 2010.