In the immediate aftermath of the news that quarterback Colin Kaepernick had signed a new contract, which included puffed-up reports regarding the value of the deal, it appeared that players like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson would benefit greatly from the new high-water mark.
Now that the water isn’t as high as initially thought, the Kaepernick contract could end up making it harder for young quarterbacks to get what they want or deserve.
Based on the actual terms of the Kaepernick contract, the Panthers and Bengals should offer the same deal to Newton and Andy Dalton, today. Regardless of how good it looks on the surface, it’s a team-friendly deal that allows the franchise to control the quarterback for seven years at numbers that are reasonable for now and will become unreasonable from the player’s perspective as the salary cap continues to spike.
Next year, when the Class of 2012 quarterbacks become eligible for new contracts, teams like Indy, Seattle, Washington, and Philly should be ready to put the same deal on the table, with perhaps a minor increase to reflect the 2015 salary cap.
In contrast, agents for the young passers poised to be paid will now be forced to show how the Kaepernick deal doesn’t apply to their clients, by pointing to Kaepernick’s actual performance through only 23 regular-season starts and by contrasting his play to that of other young franchise quarterbacks. For the same reasons the Bengals apparently are having a hard time getting Dalton’s camp to quit trying to get Jay Cutler money in Cincinnati, the Bengals and other teams will now try to get their young quarterbacks to do Kaepernick deals.
Some think it won’t work. Adam Schefter of ESPN points out that “[w]ord around the NFL” is that the contracts given next year to Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson will fall in the $24 million to $25 million range.
That may be a little optimistic. The cap has yet to climb to the point where a real, not puffed, $24 million annual package makes sense. Moreover, the Colts historically force their franchise quarterback to finish his contract before giving him a new one. That possibly happened with Peyton Manning because Manning has a reputation for getting every dollar he can (and that’s not a criticism). Luck, who like Kaepernick isn’t represented by one of the better-known and experienced agents, also could opt for the security of a team-friendly deal after three years, instead of pushing through his first five NFL seasons and forcing the team to pay him with the 2017 franchise tag as a starting point.
Regardless, with the cap going up higher and faster than many believe, the high end of the quarterback market will, too. In hindsight, the Kaepernick contract could end up being more of a speed bump and less of a true obstacle to the coming increase in high-end quarterback money.