We don’t know, and for the next few days we won’t know, the total, actual value of the contract given by the 49ers to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. So it’s possible that the 49ers haven’t given Kaepernick the top-of-market money that the agent-driven report of the value of the deal suggests.
But let’s assume the non-leaked base value is fairly close to the “up to” value of $126 million. While it’s arguably premature for the 49ers to give that kind of cash to a guy with 23 career regular-season starts, a stretch in 2013 when he was ordinary at best, and multiple misfires to receiver Michael Crabtree with the 2012 and 2013 seasons on the line, there’s a potential kernel of genius in the decision to give Kaepernick a close-to-market deal with a year left on his rookie contract.
This year, the salary cap went up by $10 million per team. Next year, it could go up even more. Ditto for the following year. The upper limit of the quarterback market, already at $20 million when the cap was $123 million per year, also will go up as the cap increases.
Soon, the high-water mark will be $25 million per year. Eventually, it will be $30 million. By next year or 2016 at the latest, Kaepernick’s deal (whatever the truth is) could be viewed as a bargain for the 49ers.
That’s why the Panthers should move quickly, if not immediately, to get quarterback Cam Newton signed to a long-term deal. With another year or two of high-end performance, he’ll be in position to try to push the top of the market even higher.
It’s also why the Colts shouldn’t do what they did with Peyton Manning on multiple occasions, letting a franchise quarterback play out his contract and backing the team into a big-dollar corner. They should pay Andrew Luck, doing his best Gene Simmons impersonation in the photo, as soon as he’s eligible for a new deal. If they don’t, they’ll eventually be paying him a lot more.