Colin Kaepernick’s $14.5 million injury guarantee for 2017 wasn’t keeping him from playing, according to coach Chip Kelly. So it’s apparently quite a coincidence that, only a day after Kaepernick became the starting quarterback, his injury protection for next year has evaporated.
Per multiple reports, that the 49ers and Kaepernick have agreed to a new deal that wipes out the remainder of a contract that was due to run through 2020. The details are sketchy and not complete, but the bottom line is that Kaepernick has given up the $14.5 million injury guarantee in exchange for an ability to become a free agent in 2017.
Kaepernick also could choose to stay for one more year, but no details have been reported (leaked) about the value of the contract in 2017. Besides, if none of it is guaranteed, the 49ers could still choose to cut him.
Like the original contract Kaepernick signed in 2014, which based on the reported (leaked) nuggets seemed to be the best contract ever negotiated in the history of American sports (it was far from that), the precise details of this new contract will say plenty.
From the team’s perspective, it has gained protection against Kaepernick suffering an injury that would have bound him to the team at $14.5 million fully guaranteed for next season. From Kaepernick’s perspective, what has he really gained?
At best, he can’t be forced to play for $14.5 million if he becomes at some point over the next 11 games the guy that he was in 2012 and 2013. Given that the Texans paid Brock Osweiler $18 million per year based on seven games in 2015 with no NFL track record before that, Kaepernick could, in theory, make himself into an attractive free-agent option for next year.
The risk, of course, is that if he gets injured, he’s screwed. Hopefully as part of the new deal the disability policy he had to buy will be adjusted to give the player, not the team, $20 million if he suffers a career-ending injury.
Even then, Kaepernick would be at risk of a career-limiting injury that allows him to play but that makes him less attractive on the open market.
Bottom line? Kaepernick is betting on himself in a very narrow and specific way. He’s giving up his injury protection in exchange for the ability to make more than $14.5 million in 2017 and to escape the three ensuing years of a contract that, if he’s playing at a high level, is incredibly team friendly.