He was once a no-name backup playing in the shadow of a 1st overall pick. Now he, Colin Kaepernick, is an established franchise quarterback with a brand new $126 million contract, and that 1st overall pick, Alex Smith, is struggling to secure another contract with his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs.
In his two years as a starter, Kaepernick has led the 49ers to a Super Bowl in his first year and a Conference Championship in his second. That track record is incredibly impressive, and with Kaepernick entering the last year of his rookie deal, San Francisco wisely decided it was better to lock down their successful new quarterback sooner rather than later.
While the 49ers have been successful under Kaepernick’s tenure, there are more players on this team than just the quarterback. San Francisco has one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Kaepernick will now be the highest-paid player on the 49ers, but he is far from the team’s best player (that honor would go to Aldon Smth, NaVarro Bowman, or Patrick Willis).
Kaepernick is not a finished product, either. His big arm and ability to make plays with his legs have led to success, but his decision-making skills have led to some troubling spots of inconsistency, including a downright-terrible start to the 2013 season. If he continues to develop and pairs his great physical tools with more consistent play, this deal will be worth it. If not, a contract of this size will be Flacco-level ridiculous.
This deal is indeed a doozy. 6 years, $126 million with $61 million guaranteed. If he earns all the non-guaranteed salary, Kaepernick will average earnings of $21 million per year. For comparison, Drew Brees makes $20 million, Peyton Manning $19.2 million, and Aaron Rodgers $18.7 million per year.
Does Kaepernick deserve to be paid more than Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers? No, of course not. But would the 49ers be stupid to let a good quarterback slip through their fingers rather than overpaying him? Absolutely.