We’ve yet to get our eyes on the specifics of the Colin Kaepernick contract, but the buzz in league circles is that the initial reports created a false impression regarding the true value of the deal.
One league source estimated that the official numbers will come out within 2-3 days. Until then (if not sooner), here are 10 questions to keep in mind.
1. How much is fully guaranteed to Kaepernick at signing?
2. Does the fully guaranteed money include all or part of his base salaries in future years? Typically, the presence of fully guaranteed base salaries in future years guarantees that the player will be with the team until that money is earned, since it will be paid whether he’s on the team or not.
3. For any injury-only guarantees that convert in the future to fully guaranteed money, is the trigger tied to the start of the waiver period after the Super Bowl or the start of the league year in March? The unwritten rule is that teams won’t cut players with guarantee triggers based on the start of the waiver period, but that it’s fair game to cut players whose guarantees convert after the start of the league year.
4. How much money is tied to escalators and incentives?
5. For any escalators and incentives, what are the triggers to unlock the extra money?
6. How much money hinges on per-game roster bonuses, which aren’t paid if the player can’t play?
7. What are the cap numbers for each year of the deal?
8. What is the cap hit for cutting or trading Kaepernick in any given year of the contract?
9. How much cash gets paid in the first year, second year, and third year of the deal?
10. Does the deal tie the team’s hands for multiple seasons or is it a year-to-year deal?
Regardless of the answers to those questions, league insiders already are grousing about the decision to give the 49ers the ability to hold Kaepernick’s rights for seven years. As the cap goes up and the quarterback market increases, Kaepernick’s contract could quickly become outdated. Absent a significant amount of fully-guaranteed money, Kaepernick should have sought a shorter-term deal with a chance to get back to the market while he’s on the right side of 30.
As it stands, Kaepernick won’t get another crack at the open market until he’s 33. For Kaepernick to make that kind of commitment, the 49ers needed to make a similar commitment to him. Chances are that they didn’t.