John Lynch

Lynch reveals 49ers payroll error that led to NFL punishment

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Three years ago, the 49ers made a payroll mistake that ended up being a lot more costly than the $75,000 that landed in the account of one lucky player.

On Monday, general manager John Lynch revealed some details of the clerical error that resulted in the NFL’s recent punishment of the 49ers, including the forfeiture of a fifth-round pick in the 2025 draft.

The NFL announced last week penalties against the 49ers for misreporting the team's cumulative player compensation. In addition to losing their fifth-round pick next year, the league moved the 49ers’ fourth-round selection at No. 131 overall to the final pick of the round at No. 135.

So, instead of holding picks late in the fourth round at Nos. 131 and 133, the 49ers now own picks 132 and 135 in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Lynch prefaced his remarks at the NFL Annual Meeting to note his respect for commissioner Roger Goodell and Larry Ferazani, who leads the NFL Management Council. But Lynch clearly believes the punishment did not match the level of the infraction.

The 49ers self-reported the issue to the NFL after failing to get the money back, Lynch said.

“We have a difference of opinion on the severity of the discipline,” he said.

According to Lynch, San Francisco overpaid a player by $75,000. He did not identify the player.

The league announced last week that the punishment resulted from a review that found administrative payroll accounting errors at the close of the 2022 league year.

“This was back in the COVID era, and there was a new system in place, and so it happened,” Lynch said. “We own our part. We’ve gone through a whole mitigation deal to remedy some of the issues that happened. But the league decided to impose that [penalty], so you take your medicine and move on.

“And we’ll be good. You hate to see a fifth-round pick next year [be forfeited]. The fifth round has been good to us.”

The 49ers selected starters George Kittle, Dre Greenlaw, Talanoa Hufanga, Colton McKivitz and Deommodore Lenoir in the fifth round of drafts from 2017 to 2021.

“Part of the issue, we tried to recoup it, as opposed to reporting it,” Lynch said. “That’s where our culpability was. So, we’ve learned from that. We eventually did report it, but we kind of went down the road of trying to recoup it. And the player did what you think he’d do.”

In other words, the player kept the payment.

San Francisco finally had to account for the lost money on its books. The NFL salary cap increases to $255.4 million per team this season.

The NFL deemed the 49ers’ violation warranted a punishment similar to the Houston Texans, who provided their then-quarterback, Deshaun Watson, unreported compensation in the form of an athletic club membership in 2020. The NFL ordered the Texans to pay a $175,000 fine.

In a statement last week, the NFL announced San Francisco would have remained under the salary cap at all times if the $75,000 payment had been reported. The NFL determined there was no intent to circumvent the cap.

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