The San Francisco 49ers will resume contract talks with star quarterback Colin Kaepernick this week.
The 49ers released cornerback Carlos Rogers this past April, cutting his $8 million dollar contract off the books. The move to cut Rogers gives the 49ers approximately $5 million in cap space. The 49ers will also take a salary cap hit for releasing Rogers to the tune of $3 million, but will look to spread that over this year and next year. The money from Rogers release wasn’t available until June 1st, which makes sense to why the 49ers front office is now considering the re-signing of Kaepernick, much like 49ers General Manger Trent Baalke indicated back in April. It’s no surprise to me that Baalke kept his word when he said “maybe by June” in regards to resuming contact talks and re-signing Kaepernick.
THE $20 MILLION DOLLAR MAN
Not just yet, but it would be hard to argue against Kaepernick receiving a new contract. Some, myself included, feel that $18-$20 million dollar price range may be a little steep. While I will agree Kap is due a payday for his performance, I am the one of the few to argue against Kaepernick’s true value. I would say he is in the $12-$15 million per year group, and that’s being generous. I mean, the fact the 49ers are ready or willing to pay him more than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady says a lot.
While many argue that Kap has led the 49ers to two straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance, I don’t believe that indicates his true value. Sure it looks good on paper, but in all honesty, much like ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser commented on PTI when the $20M debate started, “you are very fortunate Colin Kaepernick, to have gone to a fully formed team.” Kornheiser was spot on with that comment. With the fully formed 49ers roster under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have been a legit contender even with Alex Smith at quarterback.
When you look at the recent major quarterback re-signings, two come to mind quickly – Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. Flacco has won a Super Bowl, while Cutler has made every effort to not help his team reach a Super Bowl. Both quarterbacks received $100 million contracts. In my mind, neither really deserves that money. Prior to his Super Bowl victory, Flacco was deemed an “average” quarterback at best and I don’t believe that assessment has changed much. Jay Cutler on the other hand has had a history of gun-slinging potential but has yet to show consistency and the big game performance that is worthy of a $100 million contract.
But I’m not the man paying these players, the teams are responsible for that. The quarterback value has been inflated due to the contracts of Flacco, Cutler and we can throw Tony Romo in there too. There is no reason Kaepernick shouldn’t get a new contract, but to me, he hasn’t proven his real worth yet, and that’s a scary thought!With the weapons the 49ers currently have in place to help Kaepernick this year, Kap has to prove his value and it is up to Kaepernick to play up to the level his ability indicates.
KAEPERNICK AS A QUARTERBACK
Kaepernick isn’t a polished thrower and regardless what Kap tells you, he doesn’t go through his progressions. Go watch the game film of the past two years and you will notice three things about Kaepernick besides the fact he can make plays with his legs – 1) when the ball is snapped, Kap is only looking down his primary target, 2) if his primary is covered Kap severely lacks the ability to sit in the pocket and find a check down receiver, 3)when Kap throws, his accuracy forces receivers to “break-route” and re-adjust to an over-thrown or under-thrown ball. Rarely does Kap hit a receiver in stride. Rarely. There is a reason Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman knew what route Kap had dialed up in the last seconds of this years NFC Championship Game. It was obvious to all of us who watched the Super Bowl the year before as well. I even mumbled to myself at that moment in the game “please don’t run the same route”.
It’s not only blog writers like me that complain about Kap’s actual quarterbacking ability, former 49ers great and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young referenced many of the same critiques of Kaepernick’s quarterbacking ability. Today on ESPN’s ‘NFL Live’ show, Young stated Kaepernick should “run less and learn to make reads”. Young went on to also say “Kap has to learn to stop relying so much on his running ability and become a pocket passer.” Young echoed familiar words of a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, and Super Bowl winner, Trent Dilfer. Dilfer made the same comments of Kap during the 2013 season. Dilfer later corrected himself by saying he saw Kap make some of the adjustments later on in the season, but continued to stand by his stance, Kap has to be better in the pocket. Kap’s maturity, to me, is also still up for debate.
THE HYBRID QUARTERBACK
There is no doubt the potential is there, I’ve never argued that point.
I have always been against the running-quarterback. Always.
A quarterback is supposed to have a throw-first mentality. The more your quarterback scrambles the greater the chances of injury. It was fun to watch Mike Vick when he first entered the league, just like Donovan McNabb, but neither was a true quarterback and both suffered injuries due to their running exploits. We aren’t talking quarterbacks that can scramble when the play breaks down. Vick and McNabb were runners looking to make plays with their legs first, and make throws when they could. To be fair, McNabb was a much better “quarterback” than Mike Vick has been to this point in his career.
Vick, McNabb, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and now Johnny Manziel are not traditional quarterbacks. They are what is considered a “hybrid-quarterback”, you know a running-throwing quarterback. Notice I said ‘running-throwing’ not the other way around. Steve Young certainly wasn’t a running QB, but he could run when needed and Young learned how to make the transition from runner to thrower. Even former Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings QB Randall Cunningham realized he had to make the adjustment, although late in his career and became a reasonably good pocket QB. They say the hybrid-QB is the wave of the future, but I still believe in the old-fashioned, stand in the pocket and sling it kind of quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick is hoping he can be the first of this new generation of QBs to break through and make the strides that Cam Newton made in 2013 with his passing ability. The 49ers will most likely pay Kap before he ever proves he’s capable of winning it all. I would say wait this year, make him earn it.
But what QB with a Super Bowl appearance and two NFC Championship Game appearances under his name, wouldn’t think he’s worth $20 million?