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San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick and the “$126-Million” Heist

Colin Kaepernick
(Courtesy: Rant Sports)

The chorus to Logic the rapper’s immensely popular song “Numbers” goes like this: You already know what I been on/You know where I be at/Cause men lie, women lie/Numbers don’t I see that.

ESPN even made a show called “Numbers Never Lie”, so that has to be true, right? Wrong. Numbers can lie, they can deceive, and they can trick the public, and that’s just what they did with Colin Kaepernick’s new 6-year, $126-million dollar extension.

At first glance, that contract is just ludicrous. It’s insane, ridiculous, even mind boggling. Kaepernick is a good young quarterback but he’s not worth a small fortune. He’s not the best quarterback in the NFL. Heck, he’s not even the best quarterback in his division but his new deal gives him the most guaranteed money ($61-million) in NFL history. Across sports, there are a handful of players worth that much money, and frankly, Kaepernick isn’t one of them.

But here’s where the numbers lie. Instead of giving Kaepernick a mega extension that would handcuff the team for years to come, the San Francisco 49ers gave him a mega deal that’s absurdly “team-friendly” and not nearly as expensive as the numbers indicate at first glance.

My hat goes off to Deadspin and Pro Football Talk for getting their hands on the contract language, because what they discovered is truly remarkable. Kaepernick’s contract can be worth up to $126-million and $61-million guaranteed, but the emphasis is on “can”. The reality is that the deal probably won’t end up being worth nearly that amount.

The first five-years of the deal are guaranteed for injury only, meaning the Niners can cut Kaepernick at any point and not owe him a penny as long as he’s not hurt. As Deapspin puts it, it’s a “pay-as-you-go” contract. That’s not the only brilliant clause the 49ers put in this contract. The other is a de-escalator clause instead of a signing bonus, meaning Kaepernick has to perform up to a certain standard if he wants to earn all of his money.  If Kaepernick isn’t named to the All NFL First or Second Team, or doesn’t lead the Niners to the Super Bowl, his base salary decreases by $2-million each season. Those are both realistic, yet extremely difficult goals.

The non-guaranteed annual money on this deal increases each season. For example, Kaepernick will make $12.4-million in 2015, a reasonable price for a good starting QB in today’s game. That number will continue to increase until Kaepernick is scheduled to make $18.8-million in 2019. Because the deal is only injury guaranteed, if San Francisco feels as if he’s not worth that type of money, they can cut him without any financial consequences.

CBS Sports Jason La Canfora puts the deal into perspective from San Francisco’s point of view.

This deal makes Colin Kaepernick the most disposable franchise quarterback in league history. The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the league’s premiere teams over the past few years because their front office just gets it.

Deals like this aren’t the norm, but we’ll start seeing more and more teams try and negotiate contracts similar to this in the near future. The issue – not many players are willing to agree to a contract like this. It takes a special player with the utmost self confidence to accept a deal like that.

If you’re asking me, I like quarterbacks that play with an edge, and Kaepernick certainly has that.

At the end of the day, both sides are happy with the deal and the 49ers prove once again their one of the top-tier organizations in the NFL.

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