Colin Kaepernick now has the highest financial guarantee in NFL history. (Jed Jacobsohn/SI)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has always wanted to be thought of as one of the league's best quarterbacks, and now, he's going to be paid like one. According to multiple media reports, the 49ers and Kaepernick have agreed to terms on a multiyear contract extension that will tie him to the franchise through 2020. It's a six-year extension, averaging over $21 million per year ($126 million total), and with $61 million guaranteed -- the highest guaranteed money ever for any NFL player. However, there are conditions in the deal which set the guaranteed amount as purely hypothetical.
According to ProFootballTalk, the base salaries (which roll from $12.4 million in 2015, to $13.9 million in '16, $16.5 million in '17, $17 million in '18, $18.8 million in '19, to $21 million in '20) are guaranteed for injury only, and only become fully guaranteed if and when Kaepernick appears on the roster on April 1 of every year. And in each year from 2015 through '20, the contract can de-escalate by $2 million unless Kaepernick takes at least 80 percent of the snaps in any year and:
1. Appears in the Super Bowl with the team;
2. Is named a first- or second-team All-Pro.
Starting every year from 2015 on, there are $2 million per season in per-game bonuses, leaving Kaepernick without $1.25 million for every game he misses. Workout bonuses are tied in as well, and Kaepernick is required to purchase a disability policy that pays the team $20 million if he suffers a career-ending injury.
As Kaepernick said in his press conference, "Part of the way the contract is written and the way it was negotiated was so they would be able to sign other players. That was something that my agents and the organization worked out and they felt like this was something they would be able to get other players with.”
Selected in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Nevada by San Francisco in head coach Jim Harbaugh's first season with the team, Kaepernick became Harbaugh's full-time quarterback halfway through the '12 season when then-starter Alex Smith suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 11. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Kaepernick took the bull by the horns, adding new explosiveness to Harbaugh's offense with his deep ball and impressive running speed. The 49ers rode Kaepernick all the way to Super Bowl XLVII, losing to the Baltimore Ravens in heartbreaking fashion late in the game when Kaepernick's pass to receiver Michael Crabtree could not connect.
"To be able to have this compensation come along with it is amazing," Kaepernick said. "I’m very grateful for it. There have been too many people that have helped me get to this position, from the organization to my family to Coach Harbaugh, [Team president] Paraag Marathe] working on the deal, my agents being there, the coaches along the way, even [Chiefs QB] Alex Smith, the time I spent with him. I don’t think I would have been able to be at this point so quickly if he hadn’t been such a great mentor to me and helped me along with things. So, I’m very grateful for my teammates as well. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
But Kaepernick, who had been set to earn $973,766 in base salary in 2014 based on his rookie contract, had more to show. 2013 was his first year as a full-season starter, and he completed 243 passes in 416 attempts for 3,197 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. And in that season, the 49ers came very close to another Super Bowl appearance, losing in the NFC championship round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
"I’m hopeful," Harbaugh said on May 28 of the negotiations with Kaepernick before his rookie contract expired in 2015. "I’m a big proponent of Colin Kaepernick, his abilities. [I'm] on record as stating that I would like to see that happen. It’s a process. I know you’ve heard me use that word before in many other ways. But, that is not like some of the other examples. There’s a process in place. And it’ll play out.”
It has played out, and now a quarterback who has started 23 regular-season games with six playoff appearances finds himself in the same financial environs as the game's best at his position.
“Well, I guess the only thing I can say is I’m going to work to try and make sure I’m worth every penny of this," he sad, when asked about his relatively small sample size of NFL games. "I’m going to try to win as many games as possible and help this team win as many games as possible. And, I think that’s something I feel like I can do.”