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The championship opponents ranked on opposite ends of the NFL in terms of salary cap spending during the 2019 season. The 49ers committed more than $222 million toward players on their roster during the season, more than any other team in the NFL, according to Spotrac. The Chiefs ranked last among NFL teams with about $167 million in cap spending.
The NFL set a salary cap of $188.2 million for the 2019 season. However, the 49ers were able to far exceed that limit due to NFL rules that allow teams to “roll-over” extra cap space from season to season. The franchise transferred $35 million in spendable money under the cap from 2018 to 2019 alone, according to the NFLPA.
As a result, the 49ers entered the 2019 season with more than $231 million available to spend – money that general manager John Lynch and his front office associates put to good use. San Francisco signed or offered contract extensions to several players who made key contributions during their Super Bowl run, including running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander.
The acquisitions added to a 49ers core that already included high-paid stars such as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, left tackle Joe Staley and cornerback Richard Sherman. The cap flexibility also allowed San Francisco to acquire wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders via trade for the stretch run.
The Chiefs were more financially constrained entering the 2019 season, rolling over less than $1 million from the previous. However, the team managed to retool their roster through targeted acquisitions, affordable rookie contracts and the re-signing of key contributors, such as wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
The team’s most successful offseason transaction was the signing of safety Tyrann Mathieu, who became a key contributor on defense en route to first-team All-Pro honors. The Chiefs left $22 million in salary-cap space unspent through the end of the season.
Kansas City also held a key financial advantage – a star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who played the 2019 season under his rookie contract. Mahomes earned less than $5 million for a season, far below market value for the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
By comparison, the 49ers paid Garoppolo $18.6 million during the 2019 season.
Both the Chiefs and 49ers’ approaches to salary cap management yield successful returns. The two teams will meet in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.