Kaepernick on the Trade Block?

Sometime last night there was a report that 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was on the trade block. The 49ers quickly refuted the report, but since I am getting a number of questions about it here is how a trade would work from a financial perspective.

Any trade involving Kaepernick would result in a $9,863,013 charge against the 49ers salary cap. Kaepernick’s current cap figure of $15,265,753 would vanish and the 49ers would realize a cap savings of $5,402,740.  The 49ers would carry no charges for Kaepernick in 2016 if traded.

The team acquiring Kaepernick would need to have the space available to take on a salary cap charge of $12,800,000. Over the next three seasons his future cap charges would be $14,300,000, $16,900,000, and $17,400,000. Most of those salaries are guaranteed for injury and become fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on April 1 of each year, which is very late, so a team trading for him would have ample time to determine if they wanted to release him in the future.

In general those terms are very cheap for a starting QB. The team aquiring him would look at the contract likely as either a two year deal for $13.55 million a season or four year deal for $15.35 million, with the option to reduce if things go badly. That should make him very attractive and likely drive the price to a first round pick plus more. A few years ago the 49ers received two second round picks for Alex Smith and I believe the market would be stronger for Kaepernick who has far more tools to work with than Smith.

I had made a comment before all of this started that Kaepernick would be a good target for the Eagles down the line if things went poorly in San Francisco this season. I would imagine they would be a team interested now, but in many cases these rumors get started because a team like Philadelphia will pick up the phone and say “any interest in moving player X” and when the reply isn’t an immediate hang up rumors can get started.

Looking Closer at the Colin Kaepernick Contract Extension


Pro Football Talk earlier today broke down the $126 million contract extension given to 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. That gives us the ability to better understand the work that went into negotiating the contract. You can either read the PFT piece for the full breakdown or view his cap page at OTC for the cap hits, but the cliff notes version is as follows:

The full guarantee on the contract is around $13 million with $60 million being an injury only guarantee

Those injury guarantees vest on April 1 of each season

$12 million in total value is tied to per game active roster bonuses.

$12 million in total value is tied to relatively high percentages of playing time and various honors or team success

The basics of the deal go back to the point I made in the Kaepernick piece I wrote last season that the higher the overall contract value the more team friendly it would be in terms of structure and escape points, which is exactly what this contract is.

The 49ers could have used the franchise tag on Kaepernick to hold his rights for next year. This year the tag was around $17 million so next year it would likely have been around $18.5 million and fully guaranteed once signed. They also could have used the exclusive franchise tag which would have cost closer to $20 million assuming the Dallas Cowboys again restructure the contract of Tony Romo in 2015.

For cap purposes the 49ers will basically settle in between those numbers, spending an additional $19.4 million in cap room in 2014 and 2015 on their QB of which very little is guaranteed and $2 million is tied to incentives, essentially bringing him to the original tag numbers. If this went catastrophically bad in 2014 the 49ers could release Kaepernick next season and absorb just a $9.8 million dead money charge or immediately discuss a restructured deal. In essence that would mean they paid him an additional $12 million for his work in 2012 and 2013. While in practice we know this is not happening, it is a benefit to the team. Front end cash flows for Kaepernick are very low compared to his peers.

For Kaepernick to get the large contract value that he wanted there were things he had to give up, primarily guaranteed money and normal injury protections. This is a risky move for the player and a big bet on himself. He has catastrophic injury protection for career ending type injuries but small injuries can cost him millions.

The true guarantees in his contract are far less than what the number 1 pick in the draft would earn. My guess is if he came in at a much lower annual number (say $18 to $19 million a year) he would have received $40 million or so in fully guaranteed salary. As a comparison players like Jay Cutler received $38.5 million in fully guaranteed salary while Aaron Rodgers leads the way with $54 million. Even the last eras great young class of QBs to be extended (the 2004 draft class) all got over $30 million in full guarantees.

So I would say Kaepernick gave up $27 million in full protection. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you are confident in your abilities to remain a dynamic player. If you are a good player the guarantees mean nothing outside of injury protection since the team is more than happy to pay you. If you are the type to be changed by the big contract then giving up those guarantees is a problem.  For Colin as long as he lasts out the 2015 and 2016 seasons then the guarantee issue will be moot.

Kaepernick also had to give a great deal of team protection in the event of injury.  He has $2 million per year in roster bonuses tied to being active. That is a huge figure. The only other player at the position to have numbers that high is Cutler who has them at $2.5 million a year, but those are not included in the first three years of his contract. For Kaepernick they are there from day 1. The only other notable player to have such roster bonuses is Rodgers at just $600,000 per year in every year of his contract.

Now the 49ers do seem to make the gameday roster bonuses mandatory in their contracts as do the Packers, but the difference in amounts is staggering. At the least we would say he made a $1.4 million concession with this structure. It might be even more.  Most likely he’ll miss a few games over the course of his career as most do, but hopefully it won’t be significant time for his sake.

(Edit: I had mis-read the makeup of the contract for Kaepernick when initially writing this. This is now fixed. H/T to Jakob for pointing it out).

The $2 million a year in de-escalator clauses is also an unheard of thing for the position. It is basically a way to inflate the full value of the contract and reward him if he was to appear in a Super Bowl.  It’s basically a built in incentive that allows him to not miss out on the big contract he would receive if he won the Super Bowl.

Those concessions all benefit the team as does the initial cash flow of the contract, but as we move into year 3 the contract takes a turn to benefit Kaepernick, as it should if he is perfectly healthy and continues to develop into an All Pro type player. The three year total on the contract matches Joe Flacco’s take of $62 million. I am sure that is no accident as Flacco I think is recognized as the baseline number for a good QB whose money was mainly earned in the postseason on a successful team.  In that year Kaepernick breaks away from the Romo’s and Cutler’s of the world (who have better cash flows early on) in terms of earnings.

Starting in his 4th season (assuming again health throughout his contract and a big 2014 season) he will begin to distance himself from Flacco. Surpassing Flacco seemed to be the big concession from San Francisco on the contract if it plays out perfectly. Despite the higher annual value on the deal he will never surpass Matt Ryan in real earnings. Matt Ryan will earn $103.75 million in 5 years while Kaepernick maxes out at $102.6 million. In a league where QB salaries are built on postseason success that is a big one for San Francisco as Ryan’s teams have been a disappointment in the playoffs and were eliminated by Kaepernick’s team two years ago.  Rodgers makes $110 million in the same timeframe so Kaepernick lags greatly there.

Here is the full yearly cash flow breakdown across the position that illustrates when the Kaepernick deal has the potential to make him one of the biggest earners

Kaepernick cash

I would not expect this type of contract to become a standard in the NFL. I think the Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez models of higher guarantees on short term “evaluation” extensions are probably more in line with what teams would prefer for their younger QB’s. This contract to me is more about creative ways to make a contract that makes both sides happy.

San Francisco gets their guy at pretty reasonable figures during the “evaluation” period with outs coming every season and virtually nothing guaranteed. They are protected from injury. Kaepernick gets the huge money if his “evaluation period” goes well and he does get $60 million safeguarded from a career ender.

If we treat the $2 million de-escalators as incentives then we bring the total down to a more reasonable $19 million a season. If he never makes it back to the Super Bowl or gets the honors brought his way the cash flows are much closer to Romo and Cutler than the Super Bowl winners.

Kaepernick cash 2

I would not picture Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson having to use this type of contract structure. RGIII with his injury potential might have to look more at something like this and Carolina can argue with Cam Newton about the same. The interesting thing is that Kaepernick has never really been hurt, it’s more like an assumption that he could get hurt with his playing style.

Often we hear in contracts that the team is paying for what they think the player will be. In this case it’s more the player showing a real belief in who he will be. They knew the 49ers did not want distractions this year going into what is probably the last year that they can afford a deep roster so it made for a good time to make a deal that makes both sides happy.




Colin Kaepernick Lands Huge Extension from 49ers


The 49ers and Colin Kaepernick agreed to a massive contract extension that puts him in the upper echelon of the position. Per reports by Albert Breer the base value of the contract is worth $19 million a season with a maximum value of $21 million per season. Supposedly the deal contains $60 million in guarantees but the fully guaranteed amount I would be certain was less than this.

Last year I though he would max out at $18 million based on contract history of limited sample size players. So when I first heard $21 million a year I was pretty stunned. $19 million is a bit more reasonable, but I’m still surprised at the figure. San Francisco is one of the stronger salary cap managed teams in the NFL and usually seems to come out ahead with their approaches to early extensions. While we may find that to be the case when the full details of the contract structure come out I wanted to examine some thoughts as to how a player with just one season and a half of play could be paid so much.

You Don’t Have to Be Great to Earn Great Money

There was a time when Peyton Manning was basically the standard bearer for all things salary in the NFL.  When Eli Manning won his first Super Bowl there seemed to be a bigger shift that postseason success and “potential” far outweighed regular season play when it came to contracts.  Then this year it went a step further and simply being deemed a “franchise QB” with years to go was enough to bring in a huge contract.

In July, Matt Stafford signed an extension worth $17.67 million a year with $41.5 million fully guaranteed. Stafford hadn’t really won anything in his time in the NFL. He had some big numbers due to volume of use but overall he was more or less an average QB. This past January the Chicago Bears signed Jay Cutler to a deal worth $18 million a year with $38 million guaranteed. Not only has Cutler never been a big winner, but he has not been a big statistical producer and he is always injured. For Cutler to receive that contract was really amazing.

As you look at the field of QB’s in the NFL there are other mediocre type QB’s who will soon be eligible for an extension. Alex Smith of the Chiefs is the biggest one and a real concern for the 49ers. The 49ers had a choice to make between Smith and Kaepernick in 2012 when Smith was healthy enough to reclaim his job following an injury. The organization chose Kaepernick and traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs.

You can read my detailed look at Smith, but in light of the Cutler deal it’s a very real possibility that Smith could earn $18 million or more in his next contract. If Smith earned that money Kaepernick would clearly argue that he has to get paid more than Smith since the 49ers already agreed that Kaepernick was the superior player. Other names like Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and Sam Bradford could also have their numbers called at anytime this year.  All could push the market even further.

The Young QB and the Big Spending Organizations

A second concern for San Francisco comes from outside the organization, specifically their rivals in Seattle. Kaepernick and Russell Wilson will likely be locked together for their careers as long as both continue to do well. Wilson is extension eligible as soon as week 17 ends this season. Seattle has already shown a willingness to break the bank for Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Wilson, who already has one Super Bowl, would be next and based on the track record of the Seahawks it could be a record setter. That becomes a problem for the 49ers even if they don’t win the Super Bowl this season.

Other players eligible in 2015 include Andrew Luck of the Colts, Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, Nick Foles of the Eagles, and Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins. The Colts like to throw money around at players, believe strongly in Luck, and have the cap room to do whatever kind of extension they want. The Redskins have always done some crazy things with their money and that has not changed with Bruce Allen as GM. Philadelphia has jumped in heavy on QB’s before and Miami already has some real questionable contracts on the books, though I’d call a Tannehill extension chance remote.

All of these deals would likely drive the price and the cash flows from the contracts could put the 49ers in a difficult position with the salary cap. Doing a deal now gets it done on their terms.

There is Still Uncertainty about the Salary Cap

Right now the salary cap is still in a state of flux. While it jumped very high this year and is rumored to grow by at least $7 million next year, those numbers are likely coming from the same sources that said the cap would be flat for years. Outside of a few select individuals nobody knows if the cap growth this year was due to revenue growth, poor estimations in the past leading to adjustments, or some concession by the NFLPA.

At this point when an agent argues that the salary cap will rise by X% giving a team more room to afford a QB a team still has a strong leg to stand on saying they disagree with the assessment. It could just be a one year fluke after a few years of no growth. Once you get two years of big growth it becomes more and more difficult.

The 49ers Salary Cap Situation is not Great

San Francisco does not have a great salary cap situation moving forward. They had to use the June 1 cut this season on Carlos Rogers, the void year provision on Anquan Boldin, and restructured Navorro Bowman, off serious injury, for cap relief.  My estimates had them at $129 million in cap commitments to 2015 and that does not include an extension for WR Michael Crabtree. Needless to say it’s a tight situation.

What they don’t want is to be in the Ravens position in the 2013 offseason with big cap commitments, some big free agents, and a free agent QB coming off a Super Bowl. They could not protect themselves from losing Flacco in free agency unless they used the exclusive Franchise tag, which would have crippled them in the offseason. The Ravens had no choice but to pay Flacco $20.1 million a season using a contract structure that is one of the worst in the NFL in terms of leverage.

By extending now they avoid being backed into a corner and can account for the deal as a 7 year contract bringing the salary cap annual value down to the $16.5 million range if no incentives are reached and $18.1 million range if they are reached. Those are much more manageable than the alternative.

So while this still seems very high for a player with such a limited sample size there are some very valid reasons as to why the team likely decided on the deal. Hopefully we’ll get the full breakdown in the next day or two and can comment more on the contract and understanding the numbers involved.




Looking at the Young Quarterback in the NFL


With all the recent talk about the young QB’s in the NFL I wanted to take a look using my incremental yards matrix as to how they are performing in 2013. For those unfamiliar with these numbers that I use the way it works is that using data supplied by Pro Football Focus relating to length of passes we can determine how many yards an average QB would pass for on a similar set of throws. By comparing the two we can determine just how many yards the QB actually contributed to the team. The average YPA is as follows:

Behind the Line- 5.8 yards

0 to 9 yards- 6.2 yards

10 to 19 yards- 9.5 yards

20+ yards- 11.7 yards

In addition we can calculate the expected interceptions and use that to calculate yards allowed/prevented by maintaining possession of the ball. A turnover should lead to an average of 30.8 yards being gained by the opposition. So for every interception above the expectation we consider the player to have contributed a negative 30.8 yards to the team. In the past I have considered rushing yards, but I tend to think long term that is unsustainable and we have seen major cutbacks in those numbers this year for a number of “running” QB’s.

Young QB yards

What I found most interesting in the results is that for all the talk about how great the young QB’s in the NFL are only two players truly stand out- Nick Foles and Russell Wilson. While I have not run the numbers for the entire NFL these totals should be right at the top of the NFL. In Foles’ case it’s exceptionally impressive since he does not have as many snaps as other players. Both players are improved over last season when Foles was at -85 pass yards and Wilson at 285 pass yards. After two years of numbers like this I think Wilson has cemented himself as the real deal and should be paid accordingly after the 2014 season. Foles I think we all want to see a full year of work, but its certainly a good start.

Cam Newton is getting more love this year because his team is winning but statistically he’s worse this season. Last year he was at 388 passing yards and this year is down to 125 with 6 games to go. His turnover rates are higher as well. Cam can be extended after this season but the Panthers salary cap situation may prevent that. In many ways that might be a good thing because he has draft cache and name value which can sometimes lead to bloated contracts.  I’m not sure if you want to consider elite dollars to him yet or not. RGIII is not as bad as people are making him out to be but he is a shell compared to last season when he was close to 400 yards. His turnovers are also way up and I wonder if some of the regression is his inability to run this year.

Andrew Luck has also been overvalued the last two season, though this represents an improvement over last year where he finished with -272 passing yards. Luck is still young but right now I could see a bit of Eli Manning in there in that he gets passes for being a number 1 pick, wins games, and has late game rallys. He is not the same style player as Manning but I could see the perception being bigger than reality. He has cut down on turnovers. At this stage it’s ridiculous to compare him to Wilson, who is just a superior player.

Colin Kaepernick has crashed. He was incredibly productive last year and this year just is not. San Francisco has to think long and hard before extending him in the offseason. I doubt they offer him more than $15 million a season.  Andy Dalton is a turnover machine and if not for that would be a slightly above average player. He’s certainly helped by his WR corps. but the turnovers are terrible.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how low Ryan Tannehill ranked. Why did he rank so poorly?  Basically anything he throws 10 yards or more down the field leads to nothing. Pin some of that blame on the Mike Wallace failure, but the bottom line is Tannehill only completes 50.5% of his passes between 10 and 19 yards and just 26.5% of his deep throws. His team calls far too many intermediate passes for his skillset right now and that hurts. 31% of his passes are travelling between 10 and 19 yards. The next closest from this group is Newton who threw about 28% of his passes in that range. Newton completes 64%. I tend to think if they had him shorten the field his numbers would improve.

Of the guys getting their first chances this year we see two camps. Neither Mike Glennon or EJ Manuel are having success passing the ball but both are at least doing something positive by limiting interceptions. This is in direct contract to Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith who are producing average pass numbers but horrific turnover numbers. Smith’s -256 yards is nearly double the next worst player. The only players worse than him lass season were Matt Cassel (-309 TO yards) and Mark Sanchez (-332 TO yards). He is on pace to shatter those numbers. Why does his passing rank as high as it does?  He completes 46.5% of his bombs. He is below average on every other throw. If that balances out his final numbers could be scary on the season.




Stock Down: Week 3


Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Colin Kaepernick– Coming into 2013 I often received numerous tweets or emails concerning Kaepernick and how can the 49ers afford him going forward. Kaepernick caught fire last season when he replaced Alex Smith and helped lead the team to the Super Bowl. He added another dimension to the 49ers and looked to be the next big thing with some very well respected media personalities going so far as to say he has the ability to be the best QB of all time. When asked about Kaepernick I’ve always been cautious because the sample size last year was next to nothing and his situation was the perfect storm as teams spent months preparing for Smith, who had no arm and was a standard scrambler, and ended up getting Kaepernick who had a rocket for an arm and was a fantastic runner. Teams adjust and the last two weeks they got him good. Kaepernick followed up a disaster in Seattle with another disaster, except this time at home and against the Colts, a team not considered a juggernaut on defense. He threw for just 150 yards on 48% passing and only added 20 rushing yards. The 49ers always prefer to extend players early and Kaepernick’s first season of eligibility for a new contract was after the completion of the 2013 season. He has now played the worst two games of his career in back to back weeks which is going to put the process on hold if it keeps up.

Jared Allen– The Vikings allowed Allen to play out his contract and he needed a big season to prove to a team that he could still be an elite pass rusher as he makes the turn into his 30s. Allen was nowhere to be seen on Sunday against a team that threw the ball 54 times. Allen registered just one pressure on the day according to Pro Football Focus which is not the kind of game that will get Allen the double digit APY he supposedly is looking for in 2014. Allen’s pace for the season is not strong considering the circumstances. His 1 sack in three games has him on pace for his lowest sack total  of his career and these have been in games where teams are averaging over 45 attempts a game. In terms of pressures he is only generating pressure on around 8% of his pass rush attempts compared to 11.5% the last few seasons.  With the team off to an 0-3 start and the defense looking below average Allen has a chance to be lost in obscurity this year with teams feeling he was unable to do anything in the few early season meaningful games they played.

CJ Spiller– It was a miserable day for Spiller rushing for just 9 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game on Sunday against the Jets. Spiller was expected to carry the Bills offense following his explosion in 2012 when he was arguably the second most productive back in the NFL behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. Spiller was explosive and difficult to contain, finally living up to the draft day promises. This season was set to be the perfect storm for Spiller. The Bills were starting a young QB, considered to be a bit of a project, making him the man to carry the offense. Players like Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, etc…were able to use that to their benefit in getting lucrative contracts in the last few years. With some relatively heavier escalators possible to be earned in his contract 2014 should be an extension year for Spiller. But Spiller has had a difficult time this season with 2 of 3 games seeing him held under 50 yards and none will ever be worse than Sunday’s contest against the Jets.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Will Beatty– Beatty, signed to a $7.5 million dollar a year contract extension in the offseason by the Giants, was abused by the Panthers’ Greg Hardy. While Hardy is a terrific player Beatty was expected to be a top line tackle. Instead he looked like a 4th quarter throw in from the first Preseason game of the year.  He was out-muscled all day and never looked like he could match up physically with the Panthers.  There was no technique helping him cope with the pressure. He was a revolving door and it set the tone for what turned into a blowout for the Giants.

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Why Does Geno Smith’s Contract Contain Such Large Bonuses?


According to ProFootballTalk the Jets have added large workout bonuses into QB Geno Smith’s contract. I speculated yesterday that Smith’s contract would contain at least $100,000 in workout or offseason bonuses but was a bit surprised at the amount that these contain, $690,819. Some speculate that it’s a sign the Jets could be worried about Smith’s offseason dedication while others say that it was a masterful negotiation by Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Which is it?

In terms of offseason money this is the largest amount for a non-first rounder over the final two years of his contract. The prior largest figure was Janoris Jenkins, whose deal contained $684,163 in season roster bonuses, an amount that was chosen because of Jenkins off the field problems. That doesn’t mean it is uncommon to have bonus money, I believe 18 of 32 second rounders had some sort of bonus money last season, just uncommon for it to be of this size. That could indicate some issues with Smith that the Jets are trying to ensure don’t pop up.

While the Jets in the past have been big workout bonus believers, their new GM, John Idzik, has come from a system where the offseason money is not a priority. Considering the Jets let go of the teams lead contract negotiator it is highly unlikely that they would be looking at workout bonuses as a main component of contracts. Again this paints a unique picture for the GM making this a somewhat unique situation.

On the other side of the coin offseason bonus money is always in the players favor as it forces a teams hand to release a player early or pay him. It’s almost like having a “no-offset guarantee” clause in your contract if you make it through workouts or a roster bonus date.  In terms of cash flow it is beneficial to get more money early rather than needing to wait for the season to begin.

Again its not uncommon, specifically for the QB. Colin Kaepernick had $200,000 in workout bonuses with the 49ers. Andy Dalton received $200,000 in reporting bonuses from the Bengals. Brock Osweiler has $349,245 in roster bonus money coming his way from the Broncos. So the precedent for the bonus money is there and in all of these cases this was money pushed for by the agents to improve the cash flows to a very highly valued asset.  Osweiler’s situation is probably the most unique because of the presence of Peyton Manning which is why he pushed for high roster bonuses rather than the later bonuses the others received.

So what was the purpose of the high bonus?  First I would say it depends on the guarantee structure of the contract. As of typing this I do not know  if Smith’s 2015 base salary was guaranteed. I would assume that it was based on former treatment of QB salaries. Dalton received a guarantee on his 3rd year salary. Kaepernick had close to $600,000 of his third year salary guaranteed. Osweiler, selected much later in the round, received his first two years guaranteed. All of their contracts, more or less, represented a premium in guarantees over the slot. That is the QB premium I talk about that exists in the draft.

If Smith did receive a full $585,000 guarantee on his P5 in 2015 that is a big win for the player. The presence of the workout bonus in this case essentially guarantees him  a full guarantee on his third year. That is better than Kaepernick and puts him in the same category as Dalton, both players drafted a few slots higher. That’s a big win.  If there is no year 3 guarantee then Smith lost big and the workout bonus was just a compromise to cover for the guarantee. That will be a big blow for Jay Z’s first client in the NFL and one that will be used against him.

The Jets tied all his extra year 3 and year 4 compensation to workouts, normally meaning something like 70-80% attendance. As I said before the number is a surprise especially given Idzik’s track record.  It may not have anything to do with Smith the player, as is being speculated, but more Jay Z the agent. The Jets have to assume that Smith is going to be their QB of the future. The NFL permits contracts to be renegotiated after the 3rd season in the NFL. This agency is a complete unknown around the NFL and there could be a feeling that Smith is going to be advised to holdout in the future to make it known that he wants a new contract.

The workout bonus gives the Jets protection for that in year 4. A roster or reporting bonus can allow Smith to collect without being present in the offseason, staging a bit of a mini-holdout as we have seen others do. The large workout bonus makes it almost mandatory for Smith to participate even if unhappy with his contract status. About 40% of his 2016 salary is connected to workouts now. That should at least help, a little bit, the potential of an agency turning the offseason into a big story about contracts. The Jets have been down this road multiple times with Darrelle Revis.  Idzik himself even saw a little bit of this last year when someone starting floating a story about how Russell Willson was underpaid and was going to demand his contract redone, even though the CBA didn’t allow it. It was likely a bogus story from the start, but it takes the focus off football.

So when the details of the contract are official we can make a better determination of the whys of the contract. If that guarantee is missing from 2015 then it was a win for the Jets side and they have likely tried to protect themselves from any outside forces keeping Smith from attending the offseason programs. If the guarantee exists then Smith’s team did a really good job and maybe the Jets felt that this was the best protection they could get in the future. We should know the answer later today.



What Could Colin Kaepernick be Worth in 2014?


One of my readers asked for a possible number for the 49ers to use on extensions for Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith. While I haven’t had a chance to look more at Smith in depth I thought touching on Kaepernick would make for an interesting topic as he could be one of the first rookie extensions of the new CBA  when the season is over.

The first thing that I think is worth mentioning is that Kaepernick is very difficult to compare with other players. Kaepernick was drafted in 2011 but essentially did not play at all in the 2011 season. In 2012 he began the year backing up Alex Smith before an injury got Kaepernick into the starting lineup, though it seems clear that the 49ers front office was leaning towards trying Kaepernick anyway.  He has started all of 7 regular season games and only thrown 218 passes.

Kaepernick was extremely effective last season and he ranked 2nd in the NFL to RGIII in my incremental yards per play metric for QB’s. But teams now have a full year to prepare for him and the various skills he brings to the table. Last year had the potential to be the perfect storm for Kaepernick who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl before falling just short of the comeback victory. So to put a value on him is difficult and I’ll be making the leap of faith that he continues to do well.

From the 49ers perspective they would have rather extended him this past season. With 2 years remaining on a rookie contract and such a limited sample size they would have had tremendous leverage with Kaepernick in negotiating a very team friendly contract. Adding 5 big money years to his existing contract would have not damaged their salary cap in the short term and allowed them to move guarantees out of the way early in the event 2012 proved to be a fluke and they wanted to move on by 2015. Now its more difficult because if he comes back to earth the market is still going to believe that 2013 was the fluke and 2012 was the real deal. So the 49ers will only see their leverage decrease this year barring a total collapse.

Since 2000 there are very few starting quality QB’s who would have been extended after just 3 seasons in the NFL.  Tom Brady got extended after just 1 season as a starter and two in the NFL. Coming off the Super Bowl win the Patriots paid Brady about 62% of the salary of Drew Bledsoe, who I believe led the NFL in contract value when Brady’s contract was signed. Carson Palmer sat for the first year of his career and was signed right at the end of the 2005 season so the Bengals more or less had 2 years of playtime to view. He ended up setting the marketplace at $16.1 million a year, though the number is a bit misleading as Palmer had 3 years remaining on his contract at the time he signed the deal. Neither Matt Schaub nor Kevin Kolb had any track record and their deals reflected it. Schaub earned about 50% of market while Kolb only received a 1 year extension.  Finally there was Mark Sanchez who was the only player to accrue 3 years of full stats before getting his lucrative extension.


In the brief sample Kaepernick’s passing stats are significantly better than anyone on this list and that doesn’t even take into account the rushing ability. Still outside of the Palmer contract none of these players set a market and really none came close. All of the contracts were in many ways risk averse. Schaub was locked up for 6 years, Brady 4, Anderson and Sanchez 3, and Kolb just 1.

In terms of leverage Brady and Kolb both had 1 year remaining on their deals, Anderson and Schaub were restricted free agents, and Sanchez had two years remaining. Palmer was really unique in that he as a number 1 overall draft pick and represented hope for a franchise that seemed hopeless since Boomer Esiason fizzled out.   Kaepernick will have 1 year left.

Barring a Super Bowl title, which would be a longshot based on the recent history of the runner up position, I would say that the ability of Kaepernick to set the market is remote. Based on the numbers here he should settle in somewhere between $16.5 and $18 million a year over his extension years, which would probably be 4 years. While that may seem low it is going to be more than the $15 million or so franchise tender projection that would be in play in 2015 if Kaepernick played his contract out. You would have to weigh earning a total of $16.1 million from 2014 to 2015 compared to likely earning double that in cash if he signs an extension.

Though the 49ers are more successful that the Packers were in 2008, there will probably be a lot of pointing to the Aaron Rodgers contract signed in November of that year. Rodgers was in the NFL for 3 ½ years but was seeing the first playing time of his career. He was on pace for 4000 yards and signed a 5 year extension worth $12.7 million. That was slightly less than 80% of the max contract at the time. Rodgers had 1.5 years left on his deal at the time and the contract was structured in a way that the Packers could escape from it in 2010 in the event 2008 proved to be a fluke. My guess is the higher the dollar figure the more team friendly the contract will be in terms of cap structure and escape points.

Still Id say that this is a very incomplete picture because he has such a small track record. While I don’t think he has much to lose this year keeping up  the same pace over 16 games in 2013 will give him a chance to push his numbers and years a little higher, especially if the teams bucks the odds and ends up in the Super Bowl. A player Im sure we will revisit multiple times during the 2013 season.