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Kaepernick's huge contract is low risk for the 49ers

Colin Kaepernick speaks after signing his new contract
Colin Kaepernick speaks after signing his new contract
Christian Gin /

The 49ers signed Colin Kaepernick seven weeks before the start of training camp, well ahead of the timetable that general manager Trent Baalke wanted back in March.

Early reports of the deal yesterday indicated that this will be an expensive contract, with $126 million and $61 million guaranteed to their quarterback. Reading between the lines, majority of the guaranteed money isn't as large as one would think. According to Mike Florio, $13.073 million is guaranteed with a $12.328 million signing bonus, $645,000 base salary and a $100,000 workout bonus.

Kaepernick said himself at his presser that his new contract has some flexibility to help sign more players if needed.

"Part of the way the contract is written and the way it was negotiated is so they would be able to sign other players," Kaepernick said. "That was something that my agents the organization worked out and they felt like it was this something they would be able to get other players with."

In 2014 alone, his cap hit is just under $3.8 million while his future years of guaranteed money only become locked on April 1 for the following season or by injury.

Here is a following list of base salaries for 2015 and beyond, per Pro Football Talk:

2015: $12.4 million guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2015.

2016: $13.9 million guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2016.

2017: $16.5 million guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2017.

2018: $17 million base salary but $5.2 million of which is guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2018.

The last two years also have non-guaranteed base salaries in 2019 and 2020:

2019: $18.8 million

2020: $21 million

The intriguing part the favors the 49ers? Kaepernick's new contract from 2015-2020 can "de-escalate" by $2 million per season with up to $12 million disappearing depending on what happens.

Florio's report states the following criteria that Kaepernick could be forced to meet:

Kaepernick can halt the de-escalation by taking, in any year of the deal, 80 percent of the snaps and if: (1) the 49ers appear in the Super Bowl; or (2) Kaepernick is named a first-team or second-team All-Pro. If he satisfies the requirement in 2014, the full $12 million remains. If he fails in 2014 but succeeds in 2015, $10 million stays. If he does it for the first time in 2016, $8 million remains. If he does it for the first time in 2017, $6 million stays — and so on until 2019, when if he satisfies the requirement that year for the first time $2 million stays in the deal for 2020.

Kaeperinck will earn $2 million per game roster bonuses, which means he would lose $125,000 for every game he misses due to injury. Starting in 2015, he will make workout bonuses of $400,000.

There is also a requirement for Kaeperinck to purchase, after tax dollars, a disability policy which pays the 49ers $20 million in the event of a career-ending injury.

This new contract is essentially an incentive deal where Kaepernick would truly have to earn every penny with that de-escalation which kicks in starting 2015. He is making more money than what he did yesterday, but it's not the top elite dollar that other quarterbacks in the league have made. This is a long-term "prove it" deal with the pay being reasonable until there is true success on the field.

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