Making sense of the Kaepernick “de-escalators”


The initial, embellished report of Colin Kaepernick’s new contract indicated that the deal was worth “up to” $126 million.  As we now know, $12 million of the money to be earned by Kaepernick comes from so-called de-escalators — money in the contract that will go away if he fails to do certain things.

Based on the official NFLPA breakdown of the Kaepernick deal, here’s precisely what he must do to get the full $12 million, at $2 million per year.  In 2014, he must be named an Associated Press first-team or second-team All-Pro, or he must:  (1) win the NFC title game, (2) have 80-percent playing time in the regular season, and (3) have cumulative 80-percent playing time in all postseason games, not including the Super Bowl.

If Kaepernick doesn’t meet those triggers in 2014, $2 million in otherwise “guaranteed” salary permanently disappears from his 2015 compensation.  At that point, he can get $10 million over the rest of the deal ($2 million per year) by, in 2015, being named an Associated Press first-team or second-team All-Pro, or:  (1) winning the NFC title game; (2) having 80-percent playing time in the regular season; and (3) having 80-percent playing time in each postseason game, not including the Super Bowl.

If he doesn’t meet the 2014 or 2015 triggers, another $2 million in otherwise “guaranteed” salary disappears from his 2016 compensation.  Then, Kaepernick can get $8 million over the rest of the deal (at $2 million per year) by, in 2016, being named an Associated Press first-team or second-team All-Pro, or:  (1) winning the NFC title game; (2) having 80-percent playing time in the regular season; and (3) having 80-percent playing time in each postseason game, not including the Super Bowl.

The process continues, with $2 million per year going away until Kaepernick becomes a first-team or second-team AP All-Pro, or if he wins the NFC title game, takes 80 percent of the snaps in the regular-season, and takes 80-percent of the snaps in each playoff game other than the Super Bowl.

Even if Kaepernick hits the triggers in 2014, unlocking the $12 million in future salary, the 49ers still have the ability to never pay it all.  Unlike an incentive, which becomes earned when the conditions are met, escalators/de-escalators affect salary that may never be paid, if the player is cut or traded.

The rest of the official NFLPA breakdown meshes with our initial report regarding the terms of the deal.  While Kaepernick is getting plenty of money, it’s still a team-friendly deal that any team with a young franchise quarterback should be willing to give right now, since it provides the team with maximum flexibility at rates that soon will be well below the top of the market, and that commits the player for seven full years.

55 responses to “Making sense of the Kaepernick “de-escalators”

  1. He also gets $175 if he can explain the plot of Inception in under 5 minutes.

  2. Every contract in the NFL should be like this to avoid your Haynesworth type contracts…

    I’m not a 49ers fan by any means, but Cipora Herman is clearly very good at what he does, great job.

    Tom Lewand could take a few lessons from this guy before signing Suh and giving all of the Lions cap away to 3 players.

  3. Baalke’s contract negotiations with Harbaugh broke down when Baalke requested a 1.5 million “de-escalator” if he misses the NFC championship or loses to Seahawks in the playoffs or doesn’t finish first in the division.

  4. Lol hawks win ONE Super Bowl and they are a dynasty? Wtf? Anyway kap getting cutler money… And I sure as hell will take kap over cutler anyday… One more thing why knock the guy for getting this type of deal… Guy wasn’t greedy,left money on the table for other teammates.. How many rising stars do that in ANY sport now in days?

  5. Here is the reason the 9ers want contract protection of this sort.

    Kaepernick 1st full season starting stats (2013)

    3200 yds, 21 td, 6 int, 58% rate, 91 passer rating.

    Josh Freeman 1st full season starting stats (2011)

    3600 yds, 25 td, 6 int, 62% rate, 96 passer rating.

  6. Oh I see what you did there.. Comparing Freeman to kap…. I’m not going to say that can’t happen but highley unlikely.. Freeman all ways seemed lazy never worked on his craft.. Reports from San Francisco Kap first one to get there type of guy.. We going far this year and Kap taking us there

  7. After the Shehawks go back to mediocrity this year Century Link will want out, they’ll paint it blue and sell the naming rights to Tidy Bowl.

  8. If the 49’ers were 100% confident that Kaepernick was “the guy”, they wouldn’t feel the need to put all of these conditional payments in his contract.

  9. To football fans, de-escalators are those things you use to get out of the stadium after the game. Could care less about the rest.

  10. Wilson 1st full season starting stats (2012)

    3118 yds, 26 td, 64% rate, 100 passer rating.

    Pretty comparable if you ask me; any player can regress. Hopefully Kap won’t this year but even the mighty RWilson may, we’ll have to wait and see.

  11. Kaepernick did what noone is giving him credit for, he put the TEAM first and took a helluva nice salary but also lower than “market value” so that they could continue to keep some of their core together.

    Props to him and the 49ers brass for a good and fair contract.

  12. Major flash in the pan. His stats against quality teams the past 2 years (52% comp, 17td / 17 int) show that he can tear up bad defenses….but as soon as they stop him from running it’s all downhill from there.

  13. You might see more teams use this approach. Looks like a win-win for team and player. Player gets paid big time if he produces. Plenty of incentive to keep focused. Team pays out for results, but doesn’t get hurt too bad if one player doesn’t pan out or gets injured. This makes the league better and more competitive. No one player can take a whole team down for years.

  14. very smart for the 9ers to structure this deal. keeps the kid motivated and protects them if he gets injured or starts to decline skills-wise. but still allows him to maximize his earning potential. good job SF.

  15. I just love all the niner haters. Funny how they are always so concerned about our team and players. This is a great deal for our team and gives Kap an incentive to work harder every game. It’s his “team” mentality that will keep us strong for years to come. It will be interesting to see how wilson’s agent will work his deal. It will tell whether he’s a team player or in it for the money. Don’t forget they need to factor in the ref’s compensation also.


  16. I dont understand this deal but the way i see it if Kap does not go to the super bowl next year and the year after that he will definalty hold out in 3 years to re do his contract after he sees Wilson and Newtons contracts he will fire his agent…so if he wants that big money he has to get to the super bowl or else hes paid just like as if hes your average NFL QB…good for the team i agree but not for Kap..and as the 49er window slowly is closing i just dont see super bowl maybe even no playoffs..

  17. Kaep wants to win championships, not pad his bank account at the expense of losing other excellent players/teammates that could hinder that from happening. Isn’t this the kind of dedicated professional that the NFL proclaims to want to promote as the ultimate Team First player with integrity, rather than the Me-First fragile ego guy who cares more about being paid at the top of the league scale and going to the pro bowl than he does at consistently contributing to his team’s competitiveness every year? I’d rather have a QB who’s willing to take a bit less in order to keep other great players on the roster than one who decides that a few extra million per year is critical to his ability to “save face” with the media and fans. Those guys who are already paid more money than they could ever conceivably spend (sensibly) and yet hold out in the off-season at the expense of team chemistry and preparation are the ones who aren’t worth all the extra money. I love seeing a guy who’s willing to bet on himself and his abilities – even when others may be betting against him – and showing that a championship is more important to him than a money-grubbing ego. Ask how many former elite players (and I’m talking about the multi-multi-millionaires with potential HOF status) would have given up 10-15% of their overall career earnings to potentially win a Superbowl or two. Is $85 million that much worse than $100 million in the grand scheme of things? Didn’t Steve Young have plenty of chances to start for other teams, rather than waiting until he got his chance behind Joe Montana? Ask Andre Johnson how he feels at this point in his career…

  18. How do people come up with this kind of complicated scheme of a contract? The contract doesn’t matter anyways because Kaepernick is going to be released after 2 years.

  19. So what you’re saying is that if the $12MM vanishes as it may, my prediction of 6 years $105MM was only off by $1.5MM per year? Hoozah!

  20. I don’t understand why this particular contract is being dissected to the amount it is. I never read this much detail on any of the exorbitant contracts that have been issued the last few years, including Cutler and Flacco’s headscratcher deals.

  21. It’s not $19M per year without the de-escalators, for you folks that keep throwing out that number. That would only be the case if he plays out the entire length of the contract, which is a long shot. More likely, he’ll play 3-4 years on this deal (with salaries ranging from $12-$16M). He’ll then be extended again if he’s playing well, or cut if he isn’t. That would mean he’ll make $40-$55M or so in total from the deal.

  22. The lame part is any escalator or de-escalator being tied to a Pro Bowl or AllPro team. Those are individual accolades that mean nothing. You pay players on how they produce & help the team.

    You can get in a Pro Bowl based on reputation. Stupidity is staggering.

  23. ronfai says:
    Jun 6, 2014 6:25 PM
    I don’t understand why this particular contract is being dissected to the amount it is. I never read this much detail on any of the exorbitant contracts that have been issued the last few years, including Cutler and Flacco’s headscratcher deals.
    Simply put, those deals were simpler. Cutler got a 3 year deal, with 4 options after that, a 400,000 workout de-escalator per year, and incentives really only for gameday bonuses. Flacco’s contract was, in theory, a year by year deal, only spoiled by the fact that they’d have to take like a 24 mil dead cap hit the 2nd year if they cut him after 1.

    Also, this contract was unique in the way that everyone reacted to it. If you listened close enough, you could hear the sudden shift in public perception of the deal. It started that the 49ers were idiots for signing Kap for that price and if he doesn’t pan out, they probably just shut the window on their own super bowl hopes. Then, suddenly, when contract details came out, the 49ers front office were geniuses and Kap was, depending on who you talk to, either A) a guy who cares about winning championships and did what he could to help his team out or B) an idiot. You never had that with the Cutler or Flacco deal.

  24. Hey, get off his back. In this pass happy era it’s good to see a RB get paid in the NFL

  25. It is hilarious that they paid Kaepernick elite type money. That will come back to haunt the Niners. Especially once they expect him to play like a QB who is compensated that much. Like carrying a team to victory. As it stands, the Niners D carries Kapernick to wins. When that D suffers from Kapernick’s contract, we’ll see how great he is.

  26. Give me a break…..Kaep did not sign this contract, out of any sense of “team first” mentality. More like bad advice, moment of clarity that this is all he really is worth or some other reason. This is a business and he is in it for the $$. I am not slamming him for that. Show me an NFL player that isn’t “me first” and I will eat my words. Agents and teams can spin it however they want but it really comes down to the $$

  27. Oops…how could I forget about Steve Young? How many starting QB offers from other teams did he turn down to stay with the same team and wait until he had his chance behind Montana? Are you also saying he wasn’t good enough to grab more money when it was offered, instead of waiting until he was around 30 to finally become the starter of the 49’ers? You’re going to get awfully stuffed with all those words you’re eating…might want to take a break before your second helping!

  28. The guy may honestly feel the way he does. He’s still getting paid a nice chunk and he’s doing what he can to help the team win. Not only does this give him incentive to improve,he also knows that his team won’t be yanked apart because HE asked for the bank. Heck,he doesn’t even need to win the Bowl,just get there again. He’ll more than make up that money if he maintains his progression.

    And hashtags? Really?

  29. Sounds like a smart contract for the 49ers – if Kaepernick makes his maximum, the front office will be too busy celebrating to complain. And it’s probably smart for Kaepernick as well – he might have maturity issues but his Wonderlic numbers show he’s no fool, and his agents would have tried to screw the 49ers into a Tony Romo-type deal if he’d demanded it. Instead he signed a cap-friendly deal that’ll give the 49ers a chance to keep a competitive team around him for the duration of his career.

  30. First or second team all pro is something subjective and controlled by external people. Why would you let anyone put that in contract? The NFC Title game is also a bit screwy because it is a team sport. What happens if the defense suffers many injuries and give up 27 a game? That would no 100% outside of his control. Playing time seems ok.

  31. Bottom line is Santa Clara doesn’t believe in their QB or the guy coaching him.

  32. If the front office didn’t have faith in their qb or hc, they would have been fired a long time ago. They wouldn’t be signing contracts…Logic and you, is like oil and water
    higheriqthanyou says:
    Bottom line is Santa Clara doesn’t believe in their QB or the guy coaching him.

  33. When you don’t believe in them, you let them walk. You don’t sign them to any kind of a contract…you offer them something ridiculously low (ala Golden Tate) and wish them luck in their future endeavors. That’s just a stupid comment. You obviously don’t run a company.

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