More than two weeks ago, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick got his new contract. Full analysis of the contract suggested that Kaepernick got hosed.
Exacerbating the problem was a misguided effort by the Kaepernick camp to make the numbers look bigger than they are, worth “up to $126 million” and carrying $61 million guaranteed.
On the final day of the team’s mandatory minicamp, Kaepernick addressed the perception (reality) that the 49ers got the much better end of the bargain.
“You can skew things however you want,” Kaepernick told reporters. “At the end of the day, a lot of the way the contract is set up is how every other quarterback’s contract is set up. And the things that aren’t set up like those contracts are because we wanted them that way so we can sign other players. . . . It was very deliberate by [my] agents, the organization and myself that we want things done this way so we can keep a solid team here.”
Kaepernick still hasn’t explained how the deal helps the 49ers sign other players, apart from the obvious fact that it pays him well below top-of-the-market value in the first few years and that, by the time his annual averages moves toward the top of the current market, ongoing spikes in the salary cap will keep the deal in the middle of the pack.
In 2013, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did a much-publicized team friendly five-year deal. And he received $30 million at the time he signed it. Kaepernick committed for two more years — and got $18 million less to sign.
Nearly $50 million in the rest of Kaepernick’s supposedly “guaranteed” money isn’t fully guaranteed. It’s guaranteed only if he has a career-ending injury, and he has been required to buy a $20 million insurance policy payable to the team in the event that happens.
The money becomes fully guaranteed over the next five years, with the 49ers having the ability in each and every year to move on from Kaepernick — and to wait until the end of March to make a decision.
The end of March. Every year. The 49ers can explore all other options in free agency and trades, and the team can do a lot of its pre-draft homework before having to renew vows with Kaepernick. If/when the team decides to go in a different direction, Kaepernick could end up on the market after the money has flowed in free agency, and after all other teams have addressed their needs at the quarterback position.
As a result, Kaepernick needs to keep playing at a high level, year in and year out. Kaepernick acknowledged on Thursday that he is betting on himself with that arrangement.
The far better bet would have been to go all in for 2014, telling the 49ers, “Let’s talk after the season.” He opted to take the money now, and as a result he took a lot less than he could have gotten. Now he has to keep playing at a high level in order to get everything he has been promised.
Otherwise, there will be a flurry of blurbs in 2017 or so regarding Kaepernick’s public lament that the 49ers did him wrong by waiting so long to cut him.