Last Friday, the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick's representatives sat down at a restaurant in Indianapolis, in what most believe was the official start of contract negotiations. Kap is signed for one more year, but as a member of the 2011 draft class, he is eligible for a contract extension this offseason. It took a few days but we have our first "leakage" from the negotiations.
Bay Area sports columnist Tim Kawakami is reporting a source told him negotiations are off to a "solid start", although there is still plenty of work to be done. What was more interesting was his comment that, "it sounds like $15M to $16M is the floor for an average salary here[.]"
Before we get ahead of ourselves with any number, there is a lot to take into consideration. Kap has said he wants to be paid fairly, but he recognizes the need to not take up too much cap space. Salary cap projections are reportedly on the rise, with a cap potentially exceeding $132 million in 2014, and continuing at a strong rate in future seasons. That provides more space, but also could mean Kap will want a bit more. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just the reality of the situation.
There are a couple things in particular to consider with Kawakami's report. The first is that he rolled with a "it sounds like" in describing the number. Personally, I think that's a little less concrete than, "a source tells me" or "I've been told". I realize he's heard something in order to say "it sounds like", but I think the language here is important.
The second issue is what a $15M-$16M average (or more) actually entails. After all, the average total salary carries some heft, but in reality is essentially meaningless without knowing anything else. That range very well could be met with incentives and salary escalators that would only help the 49ers. If Kap did not reach them, the 49ers would save some money, but if he hit them, he would be putting together strong seasons. If that were the case, I think it's safe to say we all would prefer the latter!
I have to think that if the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick come to terms on an extension this offseason, incentives and salary escalators and de-escalators will be an important part of the contract. We know he has tremendous upside, and he showed improvement in certain areas in 2013. However, we also know he has plenty of room for improvement, and will need to take the necessary steps if the 49ers are going to take that last most important step toward a Lombardi Trophy.
The fact that we haven't heard about early roadblocks is a good first step in negotiations. It doesn't mean there won't be hiccups along the way, but good news is better than bad news at this point. It will be an interesting process, in particular because we don't always see a QB situation quite like this. Considering Cam Newton is likely going to get locked in for that fifth-year option price, this is the most notable first big contract of the current CBA era. Yes, we've seen big contracts come down the pike the last couple years, but Kap is the first who is coming into the deal with an artificially suppressed rookie deal. It makes this contract negotiation, kind of a historic.