The San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick agreed to a six-year, $126 million contract with $61 million guaranteed on Wednesday. That deal gave Kaepernick the highest guaranteed money for any player in NFL history.
Source says 49ers are "thrilled" with the Kaepernick deal. They should be. It's a below-market, year-to-year deal. http://t.co/Qmgq4BFXVI
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) June 5, 2014
Many jumped to a conclusion that the contract was way out of touch with Kaepernick’s production in his short career. “He can’t progress to the second read,” some said. Others indicated that Kaepernick was a “product of San Francisco’s talent on the field.”
While both may very well be true, it’s hard to argue that Kaepernick has not been successful as a starter in the NFL. He’s led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship game in his first two seasons as their starter. He has more career postseason road wins that Steve Young and Joe Montana combined…in three less road playoff starts. He’s tallied a remarkable 51 total touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions and boasts a career 21-8 record, both including the postseason.
Now the contract details have emerged, and they are more than friendly to the 49ers.
According to Pro Football Talk, only $13 of the $61 million was guaranteed at the signing of the contract. The rest of Kaepernick’s guarantees become reality on June 1st of each year. Essentially, San Francisco can get out of the contract each and every season with a minimal cap hit.
For 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and part of 2018, the base salaries are guaranteed only for injury. On April 1 of each year, the guarantees convert from injury only to fully guaranteed. That gives the 49ers the ability to decide, in any given year, to move on from Kaepernick. And with the deadline for the conversion of the guarantee coming on April 1, the 49ers can squat on his rights until several weeks after the start of free agency, making it harder for him to get paid elsewhere.
The devil is always in the details. Throughout the entire day, many of us were concluding that those questioning the logic of this long-term deal should wait until said details come out. Now that they have, this extensions seems to be fair for both sides involved.
From 2015-2020, the payout potential for Kaepernick decreases by $2 million. As Pro Football Talk pointed out, Kaepernick can bring this de-escalation to a halt if he is able to accomplish the following…
Kaepernick can halt the de-escalation by taking, in any year of the deal, 80 percent of the snaps and if: (1) the 49ers appear in the Super Bowl; or (2) Kaepernick is named a first-team or second-team All-Pro. If he satisfies that requirement in 2014, the full $12 million remains. If he fails in 2014 but succeeds in 2015, $10 million stays. If he does it for the first time in 2016, $8 million remains. If he does it for the first time in 2017, $6 million stays — and so on until 2019, when if he satisfies the requirement that year for the first time $2 million stays in the deal for 2010.
This is pretty much the 49ers saying publicly that they have all the faith in the world in Kaepernick, while covering themselves privately if he fails to progress as a quarterback or takes a step back. The idea here is to give Kaepernick what he wanted, but also enable the team to have some outs in the deal if things end up going wrong down the road.
Most won’t look at the details. They will see $126 million and assume the 49ers overpaid. They will see $61 million guaranteed and make the snap judgment that all that money is actually guaranteed.
More so than in any other sport, it’s important to wait until the details come out. In the case of Kaepernick’s extension, this rings more true than ever before.
It’s now up to the young quarterback to take this new contract and turn some heads. Prove he’s worth the money and lead the team to a Super Bowl. After all, that’s how he’s going to be judged in the end. Not the value of this contract.