SANTA CLARA -- With approximately $20 million in cap space after the release of wide receiver Stevie Johnson on Wednesday, the 49ers feel no need to also cut outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks for financial purposes.
General manager Trent Baalke said Wednesday that Brooks’ spot on the team is safe, for now, with his scheduled $4.35 million pay for the 2015 season.
But do not expect the 49ers to stretch themselves financially in other areas due to their unexpected cap condition, which is largely a product of linebacker Patrick Willis’ retirement. The 49ers saved more than $8 million when Willis decided to end his career after eight seasons.
“Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re going to spend it foolishly,” Baalke said. “You have to address needs and we’re into free agency now.
“Very seldom, at least in my tenure, have we delved into the early stages of free agency. We did it this year with Torrey (Smith). Right now, we’re still in that process. As you see every day, somebody else is getting cut. There’s a trickle-down effect. It’s always a fluid situation.”
The 49ers signed Smith, a speedy wide receiver, to a five-year, $40 million contract that includes an $8 million signing bonus. His contract in the first year accounts for $3.6 million against the cap.
One position the 49ers are expected to address in free agency is cornerback. Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox started a combined 28 games last season. Both are free agents, and the 49ers have yet to extend competitive offers to either player.
But Baalke claimed he feels “real good” about the team’s cornerback situation. Tramaine Brock, who missed most of last season with a turf toe and hamstring injuries, returns as a presumptive starter.
Baalke also mentioned four picks from last year’s draft class that figure will be in the mix. Dontae Johnson started three games as a rookie. First-round draft pick Jimmie Ward returns as the nickelback. Ward is ahead of schedule after re-fracturing his foot last season. Ward is likely to be held out of at least the first part of the team’s offseason program. In addition, Kenneth Acker (foot) and Keith Reaser (knee) will join the competition after both sat out last season with injuries.
“We’re working on a couple of other things still, and then you got a draft,” Baalke said. “I can see the thought process you may have, but internally we feel good about the group and where it can go.”