At this point you'd have to have been living under a rock in order to not know that Colin Kaepernick took what is very clearly a "team-friendly" contract extension. That is, the signing bonus was minuscule by top-QB standards, most of the guaranteed money is really only guaranteed for injury, and the team has a chance to reconsider on an annual basis. There really isn't much risk from the 49ers perspective.
Granted Kaepernick seems to be a different breed of guy, after all, not many QBs or players in general will take a deal like this that doesn't offer the "security" (lots of up-front money and/or guarantees) that has become commonplace in NFL contracts, but the question remains: Can and will the 49ers use this structure in order to keep some of their other players while still maintaining cap flexibility?
2014 is the main concern right now. Keeping the team together in order to make a Super Bowl run. There are some aging veterans, escalating salaries/cap-hits, and only so many roster spots. A deal like Kaepernick's helps immediately because it only counts a few million on the 2014 cap, what with the tiny signing bonus. Then there's the yearly opportunities to get out, in case next year's cap (re-evaluated annually) is looking grim and/or the player has regressed, another guy has stepped-up at the position for less money, etc.
Great, so this helps the team out a ton, but the question remains, would anyone else on the team take this sort of extension, besides Kap? What about Michael Crabtree? Many feel he will most definitely test free agency in order to get maximum return. But he has a QB who loves to throw him the football in Kap, a guy who improvises and has tossed him quite a few passes, including touchdowns, while extending the play, a young guy with the same swag and similar style to himself.
It's not that the 49ers would want the opportunity to cut Crabtree every year, in my opinion. In fact I'd be fine if the first two years were prohibitive for the team to do so, but the cap is key here. The smaller signing bonus with an escalating salary would help the team while putting some cash in Crab's pockets right now.
Brandon Marshall got three years added to his contract, entering the final year of his old deal, and that was worth $30 million in total. Would Crabtree go for a three year extension, paying him $10M in signing bonus (well over twice the $4M he's scheduled to make this year) plus a minimum salary in 2014, and, say, $5M in salary next year?
He'd end up having a cap-hit of around $4M this year, and $8M in 2015, both very manageable numbers. The team will look to make some changes next year, you can bank on that, so keeping the hits of the guys they'll keep to a moderate level is all that's required.
That would pay Crabtree about $16M over the first two years, averaging around $8M, with the third year salary probably ballooning to $10-12M. Some incentives would be worked into the deal, as always, that would push the total value north of $30M, making his average in-line with the top-10 WRs in the NFL.
It's just an example, but the big thing remains: Would he go for it? What other players who are looking to get paid would consider taking a team-friendly deal, and how might they be structured? Leave some ideas in the comments (God I feel like a Cohn saying that).