Advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus ranked the five worst quarterback contracts on Monday, which lists the five most overpaid players at that position. Of course, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who's contract was once considered one of the most team-friendly in the league, came in at number five on the list. As with all things in the NFL, things change quickly. Kaepernick's contract will compile an estimated $95.7 million in combined cap hits over the next five seasons.
One of the factors in Pro Football Focus' list was length of contract. Kaepernick is signed through the 2020 season. Another factor was the average cap hit per year over the remaining years on the quarterback's contract. Kaepernick has an average cap hit of $19.1 million per year.
Lastly, the site factored in the season in which the team can cut the quarterback and have more cap savings than dead money. For Kaepernick, that number was more team-friendly because it comes as early as 2017. If the 49ers were to cut Kaepernick in 2017, they would only have $4.9 million in dead money – a much smaller number than the $19.3 million in dead money that would be created if the team were to cut him this year.
Of course, it is possible that Kaepernick plays enough this season to prove to the 49ers' new coaching staff that he is still a starting caliber player. If that were the case and if the 49ers were to retain Kaepernick for more years, that dead money would continue to shrink significantly over time. If the team were to release him in 2018, the dead money would only be about $2.5 million. In 2019 and 2020, the final two years of his contract, there would be no dead money resulting from a release.
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If Kaepernick were one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league, his numbers would not seem so outlandish. After all, his base salary ranks as the 13th best among NFL quarterbacks and his cap hit comes in at 17th.
The problem is that Kaepernick may not even be a starting quarterback in 2016. He will enter a quarterback competition with Blaine Gabbert once training camp kicks off in late-July. If he were to lose that competition, his salary would easily make him the highest paid backup quarterback in the league. The next closest would be Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who will earn a base salary of $4.5 million.
Not only that, but his salary is the highest on the team, with a base salary more than double that of the next closest player, linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
"Colin Kaepernick has been on a sharp decline since his 2012 breakout season. In 2015, he was one of the least-accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, with an adjusted completion percentage of 68.3, third-worst in the league," says Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus. "When he was under pressure, he averaged just 3.6 yards per passing attempt. If he doesn't end up starting for the 49ers in 2016, he will easily be among the lowest values per dollar of all players in the NFL in 2015."
Kaepernick was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 37th best overall quarterback in the league last season. Gabbert came in a bit higher as the site's 27th ranked quarterback in 2015.
Of course, none of this will matter if Kaepernick can win the starting quarterback job and flourish within Chip Kelly's offense. Then, his numbers seem a lot more friendly. Plus, with $49.5 million in salary cap space per the latest NFLPA report, the 49ers are not in a crunch to make a decision on Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick contract at a glance
Signed through: 2020
Average remaining base salary per year: $15.4 million
Average remaining cap hit per year: $19.1 million
2016 base salary: $11.9 million
2017 base salary: $14.5 million
2018 base salary: $15 million
2019 base salary: $16.8 million
2020 base salary: $19 million
2016 cap hit: $15.9 million
2017 cap hit: $19.4 million
2018 cap hit: $19.9 million
2019 cap hit: $19.2 million
2020 cap hit: $21.4 million
* Cap numbers from Spotrac.com