Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The devil is always in the details and in the case of Colin Kaepernick, his multi-year extension with the San Francisco 49ers is not nearly as breathtaking as it appeared at first glance.
When Kaepernick took quill pen to paper on Wednesday in Santa Clara, California, it was reported as a a six-year contract extension through the 2020 season which could pay the talented dual threat upward of $126 million, with $61 million of that guaranteed, according to NFL.com.
In the world of the NFL, $61 million of actual guaranteed money would have set a new standard, more than proven, Hall of Fame-worthy quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees have ever gotten.
The reality, however, is that San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke cobbled together a pay-as-you-go deal, which is very salary-cap friendly to the 49ers and actually promises Kaepernick only a little more than $13 million up front in 2014 with out clauses for the Niners after every year.
The grandiose numbers reported are both real and fake, designed to save face for Kaepernick and his representation while protecting the Niners in case the still-raw Nevada product doesn't reach his ceiling as a player on the field or faces any more trouble off it.
Remember, San Francisco wants Kaepernick to succeed and if he continues to excel on a year-to-year basis, he will earn guarantees into the eight figures through 2018 on what are essentially a series on one-year deals. The 49ers, though, can dump Kaepernick while facing little salary-cap peril at virtually any time after the 2014 season and there are no guarantees at all on the final two years of the deal.
"Colin's hard work and dedication have played an integral role in the recent success of the 49ers organization," said general manager Trent Baalke. "His work ethic, leadership and on-field production have positively influenced our team, and we look forward to his continued growth in all areas."
Since Jim Harbaugh pulled the trigger on the move from his perceived game manager, Alex Smith, to Kaepernick in November 2012, San Francisco has amassed a 21-8 record, coming up just five yards short of a Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLVII against Baltimore, and perhaps just a few inches shy of another big- game appearance this past January, losing in the NFC Championship Game to eventual Super Bowl XLVIII winner Seattle.
Most agree that back-to-back championship game appearances and a Super Bowl berth are enough evidence to call any signal caller at this level elite. Add in the fact the 26-year-old Kaepernick is just entering the prime of his career, possesses perhaps best pre fastball in the game, along with the most athleticism at his position and you would almost expect San Francisco to break the bank to keep its star.
There are issues with Kaepernick, though. He still looks like a novice at times when it comes to reading defenses and he has had the luxury of playing with the most talented roster in football over the past two years, a situation buoyed by the fact the Milwaukee native was originally a second-round draft pick in 2011 and the 49ers haven't had big money tied up in the one position which usually demands it.
There was also the embarrassing off-the-field incident in Miami back in April in which a woman who claimed to be involved with Kaepernick romantically alleged that she met with him and was eventually assaulted by teammate Quinton Patton and Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette after being drugged.
In a football sense, the harsh reality here is that Kaepernick could reach his ceiling as a player while the 49ers as a whole start trending downward.
After all, the credit-card bill was going to come due for the Niners and despite the favorable deal put together by Baalke, from this point forward, Kaepernick will be making big money. That means San Francisco's vaunted depth will eventually be affected and Baalke will have to start making some difficult decisions up and down his roster.
The window is already closing for this version of the 49ers.
As for Kaepernick, while he really didn't get his "$61 million guaranteed" as advertised, at least he does finally make more than his backup, Blaine Gabbert.
"The only thing I can say is, I'm going to work to try and make sure I'm worth every penny of this," Kaepernick said. "I'm going to try to win as many games as possible and help this team win as many games as possible."