Yesterday, the basic numbers of Colin Kaepernick’s newly-signed contract extension were announced and the collective sports-world raised an eyebrow at the numbers: $110+ million and a record-setting $61 million in guaranteed money. However, because it’s an NFL contract the first numbers reported are rarely what they appear to be and Kaepernick’s deal actually gives the 49ers plenty of flexibility.
First, the $61 million guaranteed is actually $61 million guaranteed for injury only. This essentially means that the 49ers can still decide to cut Kaepernick after any season in which they feel like he isn’t producing. The guaranteed money for each season will only count if Kaepernick is still on the team after April 1st of each year (in the wonderful world of NFL contracts, this all still somehow counts as guaranteed money). The contract is actually a pay-as-you-go deal.
Kaep’s yearly contract breaks down like this:
The base salary for 2015 is $12.4 million, guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2015.
For 2016, the base salary is $13.9 million, guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2016.
For 2017, the base salary is $16.5 million, guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2017.
For 2018, the base salary is $17 million, $5.2 million of which is guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2018.
The non-guaranteed base salary for 2019 is $18.8 million, and the non-guaranteed base salary for 2020 is $21 million.
But wait! There’s more!
Kaepernick’s contract also includes a de-escalator clause which could knock an additional $2 million per season off his salary. In order for Kaepernick to not lose $2 million each season he has to do some pretty remarkable things. In addition to playing at least 80% of the snaps in a season, Kaep will also have to either get his team to a Super Bowl OR make first-team or second-team All Pro. If he fails to meet one of those benchmarks in a season, $2 million is deducted from his salary.
Unless Kaepernick turns into some sort of unprecedented football god, he ain’t seeing all that money.
In addition, if Kaepernick were to suffer a career-ending injury, he’d actually be on the hook to pay the 49ers $20 million through a disability policy.
The 49ers have so many “outs” in this deal that they should be absolutely thrilled that they essentially got their young, promising quarterback without gambling too much in terms of commitment. They can cut him before April 1st after each season and Kaep wouldn’t even have much leverage if it came to that as that would be weeks after the start of free agency.
In other words, Kaep just signed a deal which will guarantee him $13.073 million at the time of signing. Now, he’ll have to produce (and produce big) to even approach some of those lofty numbers which were first reported yesterday.