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49ers free agents: Considering Blaine Gabbert and his next NFL contract

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The San Francisco 49ers quarterback situation remains a question mark. Blaine Gabbert will be a free agent next spring. Here are some potential comps if the 49ers decide to re-sign him.

The San Francisco 49ers have just about wrapped up any offseason roster additions, and so we thought it would be fun to take a look at some potential contracts for next offseason. And why not get it started with quarterback Blaine Gabbert? He is heading into his walk year, having signed a two-year extension with the 49ers back in March 2015.

For this analysis, I will consider two scenarios. The first will be if Gabbert plays well in Chip Kelly’s offense, and has a career season. In that case, Gabbert gets a kind of deal that he likely was hoping for when he was drafted in 2011. The other is if Gabbert has a decent but not great season, with the idea that he might be brought back to be the starter in 2017, but as a mentor for a top draft pick.

This does not really address Colin Kaepernick’s situation. If Kaepernick ends up re-claiming the starting job, we can just scrap most of this. But, this is operating under the assumption that Gabbert claims the starting job for the entire season, and Kaepernick is potentially released or traded between now and next spring.

Gabbert enters this season with a $2.25 million salary cap number. That includes a base salary of $1.75 million, a $200,000 roster bonus he already received in March, a $50,000 workout bonus, and a $250,000 proration from his signing bonus in 2015. If he puts together anything remotely resembling a good season, he will definitely see a pay raise.

"Franchise-caliber" performance in 2016

We’ll start with the "franchise quarterback" scenario," with a look at some of the big contracts out there. Even with a great season, he won’t get an Andrew Luck type contract, but he could find himself getting a very nice pay day. We’ll look at some pertinant quarterbacks using salary cap info coming from OverTheCap.com.

I think the most obvious contract that the 49ers would look to duplicate is their own Colin Kaepernick. It has been viewed as extremely team friendly thanks to the low signing bonus and the ability to release Kaepernick with limited cap hits.

Kaepernick signed a 6-year extension, worth $114 million ($19M APY). It included a $12,328,766 signing bonus, and averages $19 million per year. He received $12,973,766 fully guaranteed, which was his signing bonus and first year base salary. He then had $48,026,234 in base salary that was guaranteed for injury. I think this may have been the most team friendly deal I’ve ever seen for what the 49ers were hoping they were going to get from Kaepernick.

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2014 $645,000
($645,000)
$3,022,444 $0 $100,000 $3,767,444
2015 $10,400,000
($10,400,000)
$2,465,753 $2,000,000 $400,000 $15,265,753
2016 $11,900,000 $2,465,753 $2,000,000 $400,000 $15,890,753
2017 $14,500,000 $2,465,753 $2,000,000 $400,000 $19,365,753
2018 $15,000,000 $2,465,754 $2,000,000 $400,000 $19,865,754
2019 $16,800,000 $0 $2,000,000 $400,000 $19,200,000
2020 $19,000,000 $0 $2,000,000 $400,000 $21,400,000

I doubt Gabbert agrees to a deal like that. His agent is Tom Condon, and he would likely advise Gabbert to push for more guarantees in any big contract extension.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Tannehill signed a 4-year extension, worth $77 million ($19.25M APY). It included $21.5 million in fully guaranteed money.

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2015 $660,000
($660,000)
$4,213,364 $0 $0 $4,873,364
2016 $9,340,000
($9,340,000)
$2,300,000 $0 $0 $11,640,000
2017 $17,975,000
($3,500,000)
$2,300,000 $0 $25,000 $20,300,000
2018 $17,475,000 $2,300,000 $0 $25,000 $19,800,000
2019 $18,725,000 $2,300,000 $0 $25,000 $21,050,000
2020 $19,497,523 $0 $0 $25,000 $19,522,523

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Cutler originally signed a 7-year deal, worth $126.7 million ($18.1M APY), with $38 million fully guaranteed. His deal was restructured in 2014. I don’t see the 49ers doing this structure necessarily, as the team always does per game roster bonuses. Cutler’s deal was never viewed as team friendly, but I wanted to post this as a potential deal based on APY.

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2012 $7,700,000 $1,400,000 $0 $500,000 $9,600,000
2013 ($8,470,000) $1,400,000 $0 $500,000 $10,370,000
2014 $17,500,000
($22,500,000)
$1,000,000 $0 $0 $18,500,000
2015 $15,500,000
($15,500,000)
$1,000,000 $0 $0 $16,500,000
2016 $16,000,000
($16,000,000)
$1,000,000 $0 $0 $17,000,000
2017 $12,500,000 $1,000,000 $2,500,000 $0 $16,000,000
2018 $13,500,000 $1,000,000 $2,500,000 $0 $17,000,000
2019 $17,500,000 $0 $2,500,000 $0 $20,000,000
2020 $19,200,000 $0 $2,500,000 $0 $21,700,000

Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans

Osweiler signed a 4-year deal, worth $72 million ($18M APY) with the Houston Texans this offseason. His deal included $37 million fully guaranteed, with a $12 million signing bonus.

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2016 $4,000,000
($9,000,000)
$3,000,000 $5,000,000 $0 $12,000,000
2017 $16,000,000
($16,000,000)
$3,000,000 $0 $0 $19,000,000
2018 $18,000,000 $3,000,000 $0 $0 $21,000,000
2019 $13,000,000 $3,000,000 $4,000,000 $0 $20,000,000

Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2013 $4,000,000
($4,000,000)
$13,820,000 $0 $0 $17,820,000
2014 $2,000,000
($2,000,000)
$13,820,000 $0 $0 $15,820,000
2015 $9,500,000
($8,000,000)
$8,221,250 $0 $0 $17,721,250
2016 $17,000,000 $5,500,000 $0 $0 $22,500,000
2017 $16,500,000 $5,500,000 $0 $0 $22,000,000

If Gabbert has a break out season, where the team views him a franchise quarterback, I would think the 49ers would offer him a deal averaging around $18 million a year, with about $21 to $22 million in guaranteed money. The deal would include offseason workout bonuses, and per game roster bonuses tied to the 46-man game-day active roster.

I would not be surprised if Condon advised against such a deal. The APY is fine based on comparable deals, but the guaranteed money might be a sticking point. I’m not sure how flexible Condon is with doing base salaries being guaranteed on a certain date, but those would also be in the 49ers offer. The team has frequently used them, as they don’t like to guarantee a lot from the start of the contract.

I can see Condon asking for more guaranteed money, or a higher average per year. I would expect Condon to push the card that Gabbert has improved, and is deserving of one or both of those. Additionally, there is the whole 3-year vs 5-year cash payout that teams, and the media, along with myself, focus on more so than the average per year.

The deal I look at as something I would offer is Brock Osweiler’s recent deal with the Texans. The reason for that is I don’t like the idea of offering more than four years on a new deal with Gabbert. I would go with the approach that Gabbert is getting older, and he has struggled quite a bit in the past, aside from what he showed in 2015. I personally have no issue guaranteeing Gabbert’s first two years’ base salaries, as long as they are not outrageous numbers.

Solid but not great year

The other option is if Gabbert has a decent year, but nothing spectacular. We would be looking at a season where he was certainly a capable performer, but not enough to justify being "the guy" for the future. In this case, the 49ers look at him as someone who could mentor a highly drafted rookie. Even in that instance, I would expect the 49ers to pay Gabbert more than what we saw on his most recent deal.

Below are some comps for a deal that would work more for a stop-gap quarterback (or even an eventual veteran backup) than a franchise quarterback.

Chase Daniel, Philadelphia Eagles

Daniel signed a 3-year deal, worth $21 million ($7M APY), with $12 million fully guaranteed. He also has $15 million in incentives, and performance escalators throughout the contract.

Year Base $ (Gtd)
Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2016 $1,000,000
($4,000,000)
$1,000,000 $3,000,000 $0 $5,000,000
2017 $7,000,000
($5,000,000)
$1,000,000 $0 $0 $8,000,000
2018 $7,000,000 $1,000,000 $0 $0 $8,000,000

Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns

McCown signed a 3-year, $14 million deal ($4.67M APY), with $6.25 million fully guaranteed.

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses CapNumber
Prorated Roster Workout
2015 $2,250,000
($3,250,000)
$666,666 $1,000,000 $0 $3,916,666
2016 $4,375,000
($1,000,000)
$666,666 $0 $0 $5,041,666
2017 $3,625,000 $666,668 $750,000 $0 $5,041,668

Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars

Henne signed a 2-year extension, worth $8 million ($4M APY), with $4.5 million fully guaranteed.

Year Base $ (Gtd) Bonuses Cap hit
Prorated Roster Workout
2016 $1,500,000
($4,500,000)
$250,000 $0 $0 $4,750,000
2017 $3,000,000 $250,000 $0 $0 $3,250,000

In this scenario, I would expect the 49ers to offer Gabbert something on the lower end, likely in the $5 million a year range. I would expect Gabbert and Tom Condon to counter looking at what Chase Daniel got in Philly. It makes more sense than what Sam Bradford got, which I believe is too much for either Bradford or Gabbert.

I would do something in between $5 million and $7 million per year year, and give him $6 million a year, on a two-to-three year deal, with $10 million fully guaranteed. I would also push for per game roster bonuses, and workout bonuses. Finally, I woudl include incentives, but not near what Daniel got from Philly.

As always you can follow me on Twitter, @Jay_AB81, or check our salary cap section here, on Niners Nation, which is now officially the exclusive home for my salary cap information.