One big reason the 49ers salary cap is in decent enough shape at this point in spite of back-to-back playoff appearances is the financial freedom of not investing a ton of money in Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers will eventually have to back up the Brink's Truck, but for now, they are benefitting from big performances from a low-cost quarterback.
And the 49ers are not the only one getting such a benefit. Our friendly rivals in the Pacific Northwest have their own inexpensive quarterback in Russell Wilson. They get an extra year of the low cost option since Wilson is only entering his second season, while Kap is entering his third. Other teams with decent options are the Bengals (Andy Dalton) and Dolphins (Ryan Tannehill). Other than that, anybody with a good quarterback is paying some decent money for them.
The folks at the Detroit Free Press have put together a chart of QB salaries to help us better understand the situation for each team. Their chart includes each starting QB's total contract value, average per year, guaranteed money, 2013 cash and how long the contract runs.
Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to earn $840,844 this season, while Russell Wilson is slated to earn $526,217. Wilson will earn $662,434 in 2014, after which the Seahawks can sign him to a contract extension. Kap is scheduled to earn $1,073,766 in 2014, but I have to imagine the odds of him getting that kind of money are pretty slim. The 49ers have proven they are a smart front office, and they have to realize they need to get a deal done before Kap hits free agency. That's just plain common sense.
The other two teams in the NFC West are not quite so fortunate at QB in that regard. The Rams will pay Sam Bradford $9 million in 2013 base salary, while the Cardinals will pay Carson Palmer $2 million in base salary this season along with $6 million in signing bonus money. I remain convinced that the Cardinals could be a tough team if they can keep Carson Palmer on his feet, but we'll see what that offensive line can do in 2013.
It is worth noting that the chart does leave some room for interpretation. For example, Tom Brady's total 2013 cash is listed at $31 million. He actually has a base salary of $1 million, a signing bonus of $3 million, and $27 million in salary turned into a signing bonus. The money helps in cap space, keeps Tom Brady in Foxboro, and generally made everybody happy.