Colin Kaepernick's comments in one of his recent interviews intrigues me: "I think it's a balance. You want to be paid fairly for what you feel like you're doing in comparison to your peers...and there has to be room for everyone." Kap, in a move that I am sure was pre-approved by his agent, is throwing down the gauntlet for the upcoming contract talks. If things go poorly, Colin is already establishing his position and making sure everyone knows he is a team first guy. I think this is a smart move, especially for a guy that is leveraging his personal brand for additional revenue to the extent that he is.
What does being "paid to market" but also a team friendly deal mean? There are a lot of big numbers being thrown out for QBs these days, but what do they really represent. Let's look at a few:
Joe Flacco 6yr/120M
Summary: This is really a three year deal. From 2013-2015, Joe will make 47.8M, or 15.9M per year. In 2016, they do 1 of 3 things. (1) Joe is the best in the league and they keep paying him, (2) they cut him and take a cap hit of $26M, probably broken out over 2 years, or (3), they renegotiate. Baltimore basically committed to paying about 15M per year for their starting QB position for the next 5 years. If Flacco works out great. If not, then they eat the dead money, draft a rookie, and are still paying about the same amount for the position.
Salary cap: 2013=$6.8M, 2014=$14.8M, 2015=$14.55M, 2016=$28.55M, 2017=$31.15M, 2018=$24.75M
Actual cash to Joe: 2013=$30M ($29 signing bonus), 2014=$9M, 2015=$8.75M, 2016=$22.75M, 2017=$25.35M, 2018=24.75M.
Guaranteed money: $29M signing + $23M for injuries only.
Matt Ryan 5yr/104M
Summary: Over the next 3 years, Matt will make $21M per year, but then his actual salary goes down. In the back 3 years of his contract he averages $17M per year. The deal was a 5 year deal, but it was an extension, so over the 6 years Matt will average $19M per year. This deal was meant was meant to keep Matt around, and give the team a lot of flexibility in the back half of his contract.
Salary Cap: 2013=$9.6M, 2014=$17.5M, 2015=$19.5M, 2016=$23.75M, 2017=$23.75M, 2018=$21.65M
Actual cash to Matt: 2013=$30M, 2014=$21.5M, 2015=$11.5M, 2016=$15.75M, 2017=$15.75M, 2018=$19.25M
Guaranteed money: $42M (basically 2013 and 2014)
Jay Cutler 7yr/126M
Summary: Jay didn't get a big signing bonus, but instead got the first few years of his contract guaranteed. Over the next 3 years, Jay will make $54M or $18M per year. After that, there is ZERO dead money if they cut him. Basically, this is another 3 year deal, like Flacco's, but with more team friendly numbers then Joe in the back half, like Matt's deal, if they choose to keep him longer.
Salary Cap: 2014=$22.5M, 2015=$15.5M, 2016=$16M, 2017=$15M, 2018=$16M, 2019=$20M, 2020=$21.7M
Actual cash to Jay: 2014=$22.5M, 2015=$15.5M, 2016=$16M...
Matthew Stafford 3yr/53M
Summary: This is an extension that keeps Stafford around for 4 more years. The dead money is such that the soonest Detroit would consider parting ways with Matt is 2016. Because there are some options in here, the cash flow is a little harder to figure out, but it looks like Matt is bring in $20M-$22M on average throughout the contract.
Salary Cap: 2013=$17.8M, 2014=$15.8M, 2015=$17.7M, 2016=$22.5M, 2017=$22M
QB pay over the next 3 years from our sample:
Matt Ryan = $21M
Matt Stafford = $20.8M (I think)
Jay Cutler = $18M
Joe Flacco = $16M
There are other numbers out there, but this gives you a good range for the market with recent contracts for comparable players.
So, what should the Niners pay? The starting point is the 2014 season. Kap is under contract for a $1.6M cap hit, $1.1M cash coming to him. We could franchise tag him in 2015, and again in 2016. It's hard to estimate what those cap numbers will be, so I am going to assume $20 and $24 million. This year the QB tag was $15M and it is only going to go up. In addition, there are different kinds of tags and minimum raises for the 2nd year of franchise tagging. Those are big hits for those two years, but we could make it work and it gives us added flexibility for this season.
Colin Kapernick (3 yr avg with tagging) = $15.0M
This represents the MOST we have to pay to keep Colin around for 3 more seasons, and it is not guaranteed.
The other thing the Niners have to consider is balance. Colin mentioned wanting to sign other players, and keep the roster intact. Historically, Peyton Manning was the highest paid Super Bowl winning quarterback when he won his SB with Indy. I believe he was making 14% of the cap at the time. In today's dollars, that comes out to about $18M per year. Peyton is making more than that now with Denver, and we saw how that is working out for him. Tom Brady took a pay cut last year to about $15M per year. Aaron Rodgers cap hit doesn't go over $20M until 2017. It's not to say that a team can't win the big one with a $20M QB, but it hasn't happened yet. Our front office understands this, and is disciplined, so we won't go overboard.
What does this mean for Colin? A $30M signing bonus would only be a 6M cap hit for this year. We could push the number to 2015 and guarantee it, so don't get too caught up regarding when we take the cap hit. We could figure something out. This is similar to what the other players got. Assuming the York's have that much cash lying around, I would expect the same for Colin.
For long term security, and up front/guaranteed money, the niners are going to want at least a little discount. A five year extension would take us through the 2019 season, where Kap will be 32 years old. The great quarterbacks have shown us that they can play into their late 30's, so a 9 year extension (age 36) is not out of the question. At age 32, Kap has potential for at least 1 more big contract, so I suspect he would be happy being a free agent in 2020.
I expect the Niners to offer something in the range of 5 years, $86M. This averages $17M per season ($14.3M/yr inc 2013) and keeps the quarterback at approximately 12% of my projected cap (all based on estimates, who really knows). It's comparable to other QB's that are "team first." The deal might be actually a little higher, but then they will put the big money on the back of the deal, or extend the years, with the intent that we would renegotiate before we ever got to those big ticket seasons. The key is the dead money, which covers the first 5 years of the deal as pro-rated signing bonuses are accounted for. Anything beyond that is "funny money" without guarantees.
Sorry to throw so many numbers at you. If you made it this far, you must have to have an opinion, so what are your thoughts? Is Colin a $17M per year QB? Will Colin take the deal, or will he play out his contract and try and test the market?
Alright Harbaalke, make it happen already.