Immediately following news that Colin Kaepernick signed a 6-year contract extension with the San Francisco 49ers, the first reaction was one of surprise. We heard $126 million in total compensation, and $61 million in guaranteed money. People were wondering what was going on given that Kap had less than two full seasons worth of starting experience. The video above features Michael Wilbon going off on the initial reports. I'm not a big Wilbon fan because I think he plays up his buddy-buddy with professional athletes a but too much (the worst example being this recent wildly ignorant blasting of USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann). But the Kap deal does provide an example or two of poor, agenda-driven journalism.
When terms were clarified, people immediately jumped to the other side, claiming Kap had left money on the table. People argued he and his agents had been taken by the 49ers. In reality, this appears to be a deal in which the player took a little less in order to provide his team an opportunity to extend some of the key components of the team. Kap receives a signing bonus of just over $12.3 million, which prorates at a low number, opening the door for future salaries to be converted to bonuses if needed. Beyond that, Kap received a sizable injury guarantee, wtih $48 million immediately guaranteed for injury. His salaries feature rolling guarantees, where they become fully guaranteed at some point in the league year of the given season.
This has become a staple of 49ers contracts, so it's not a shocking development. Wilbon and Kornheiser don't get a lot of these nuances, but I get the general point they're trying to make.
A lot of the criticisms since the details came out appear to be part of an agent-driven narrative. It appears Kap has taken a bit less, and I think we can all imagine how agents for other players view this. This kind of deal will not necessarily become the norm, but it certainly gives front offices an argument for less fully guaranteed money. It's all part of the negotiation dance, but it would not surprise me if the negative reactions to the deal are coming from anonymous agents.
Pro Football Talk has had numerous positions on this deal, and some of their latest stuff seems to be part of this agent driven narrative. Then there is also the PFT article from March 7 listing 10 reasons why the 49ers should not pay Colin Kaepernick $18 million a year. The team is now paying him $19 million a year, but I'd imagine PFT would say, "well, it's not really $19 million per year."
Even still, this deal shows that a team can make this kind of deal happen, and potentially develop a win-win situation. People always look for a winner and a loser, but it is entirely possible for this to be a win-win. That would seem to be a cool narrative for the media to track, but I suppose we don't want everyone being happy. And as we've seen in the past from PFT (see the Harbaugh-Browns nonsense), Mike Florio is more than willing to follow along when an anonymous source will lead him down a click-laden path.
It will be interesting to see how upcoming contract negotiations play out in light of Kap's decision. Over the weekend, we had some discussion about team-friendly deals. On the one hand, Kap did take less in up-front money. On the other hand, odds are pretty good he'll make most of the money in this contract, or at least most of it until a renegotiation happens to extend him out further. The odds of him getting cut for skill or cap reasons over the first half of the 6-year contract are pretty slim. I suppose as he gets older anything is possible, but I'm not holding my breath that he'll be released.
It is certainly possible he will not hit the escalator clauses that net him an additional $12 million. The odds are not awful given how strong the 2014 49ers could be. If they get to the Super Bowl and Kap gets his 80 percent of snaps, he gets the $12 million. But even if he does not hit that escalator (fingers crossed that is NOT the case), that represents less than 10 percent of the total value of his compensation. He still would be looking at $114 million in compensation.
I would think the team will re-do the deal at some point, but the point is that it's not like he's shooting himself in the foot on this deal. Most any other player on the team is looking at less total compensation because they are not the quarterback. There is still a lot of money to be made for these guys, but it will be interesting to see how negotiations do play out for these other players.