Colin Kaepernick extension and gather some more financial details before we spun this thing forward a bit. (We used a few media reports from Pro Football Talk and from Spotrac to help us.) Let's just say we're glad we waited.We wanted to let the dust settle a bit on the
At first blush, the record $61 million guaranteed was eye-poppingly large for a player who, yes, has an excellent win-loss record, two appearances in the NFC championship game and a Super Bowl appearance to his name in fewer than two years of starting, but that number also suggests they are paying him more for what they think he's going to do down the road.
And that's no doubt the case. Jim Harbaugh has said in no uncertain terms that he believes Kaepernick is ready for a career-best season in 2014 and that his best days lie ahead, which they probably do. But that $61 million must be looked at in the proper perspective — of that money, only a little over $13 million is truly guaranteed.
Kaepernick has a signing bonus of $12.3 million, a first-year base salary of $645,000 and a workout bonus of $100K. After that, they technically could cut him. They won't, but they could and would not be on the hook beyond that, other than taking salary-cap hits for the following four years of the prorated signing bonus.
The deal is structured with base salaries of $12.4M, $13.9M and $16.5M for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017, and those become fully guaranteed on April 1 of those years. In 2018, $5.2M of his $17M base salary will become fully guaranteed. In addition, Kaepernick will receive roster bonuses totalling $12M — exactly $2M per year for every year he's on the 53-man roster between 2015 and 2020, the final year of the contract. There also is a per-game bonus of $125,000 from 2015 to 2020, which could add up to $12 million if he doesn't miss a regular-season game, and workout bonuses each of those years for $400,000 per season.
But there's a big kicker: As much as $12 million can be usurped from the deal if Kaepernick does not play 80 percent of the team's snaps and either reach a Super Bowl or be named first- or second-team All Pro. If he achieves this in the 2014 season, the $12M remains his to keep, but if not he could lose up to $2M per year for as long as he fails to reach those requirements. That's quite an insurance policy there for the 49ers.
So you can see that the money isn't exactly what we thought it was when the initial contract numbers hit the wire. As NFL agent Mike McCarthy pointed out on Twitter, this shell game only fools people for so long.
Why, why, why over-sell contracts to the media? All true details get revealed so quickly.— Mike McCartney (@MikeMcCartney7) June 5, 2014
This is significant. Although Kaepernick very well could earn every dollar of his $61 million "guaranteed," and heck he even could make every penny of the $126 million of the total deal. But the reality is that he probably will not. And while it's impossible to predict how much of this type of language will make its way into other quarterbacks' contracts on other teams, we can say that the Kaepernick deal isn't going to have a direct effect on what the eventual deals for Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and others will look like.
Newton is likely the next big one to be addressed. He has stayed patient, knowing that he might have to wait until next summer for something to happen. He'll play this season under the team option $14.87 million salary, and he'll be doing so with perhaps his worst offensive cast yet — no Steve Smith, no Jordan Gross and a lot of new faces at receiver and on the offensive line.
Newton's agents might try to come in with a guaranteed number north of Kaepernick's ersatz $61M figure, but the Panthers — with a conservative GM In Dave Gettleman — almost assuredly would try to protect themselves the same way the 49ers' brass did.
Luck's eventual deal with the Colts likely will be as iron-clad as they come. Little funny money. Few conditionals. Not much in the way of financial sleight of hand. That's the prediction from this view. He's viewed as far less of an injury risk than either Kaepernick or Newton — fairly or not, as he too runs fairly often — and has been the more consistent performer over a longer stretch than them.
Wilson is perhaps the most closely aligned with Kaepernick, in so many ways. For one, they are rivals who — God willing — will face off at least twice a year for the next several seasons, if we're so fortunate. They make for great foils, as do their respective teams. They also have a great amount of respect for each other off the field, which makes them the next generation's iteration of Brady vs. Manning.
But Wilson already has one important piece of hardware Kaepernick does not: a Super Bowl title. The part of Kaep's deal that ensures he wins games in order to earn a chunk of his salary is not likely to be a part of Wilson's new deal, which can start being negotiated by the rules of the CBA starting in the 2015 calendar year. But the Seahawks surely will take care of their guy a year after he's the (!!!) third-highest paid QB on the team's roster behind Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor, and they'll do so in a straightforward way that — very likely — will give Wilson the chance over time to earn more money than his rival down the coast. The structure of that deal will be interesting, but it should be less confusing.
Word around NFL is that when Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson get new deals next year, they will come in between $24-$25 million per year.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 5, 2014
Griffin is a fascinating case, and clearly this season will have a huge bearing on what kind of money he'll be in store for. In the simplest terms, if he's a hit with new head coach Jay Gruden and regains his 2012 form, Griffin should be fine. But if there is a gray area to his play, he gets hurt or cannot reconjure his rookie-year magic, suddenly we have more questions. Perhaps Griffin's deal, depending on how he plays in 2014, will be as closley aligned to the Kaepernick contract as any of these guys because of the potential unknowns.
So what we're seeing is that Kaepernick's deal might be its own entity — and that the numbers we first saw might not be all it was cracked up to be. Some of the agents and teams of the star quarterbacks waiting for their own extensions are certain to take note of this.
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