Colin Kaepernick's new deal means there's no more excuses and he must ascend to the top of the ranks among quarterbacks. The 49ers extended Colin Kaepernick through the 2020 season, making this one of the highest deals in guaranteed money.
Forget how cap friendly the deal will be in 2014. Forget how he is in the final year of his rookie contract this year. Forget the future cap hit structure and how the team will work around it. This is about Kaepernick proving his worth from here on out.
Kaepernick spoke to the media hours after the team announced his new contract. He remained humble compared to what others expect of him, even with the new deal.
"I don’t feel like it’s a pressure thing," Kaepernick said to the media on Wednesday. "I think it’s my own personal expectation regardless of what anyone else thinks. [The] expectation is to try and win a Super Bowl every year.”
With $61 million in guaranteed money from a $126 million contract, everyone expects him to be more than just a game manager and take over the offense. There have been flashes of this which includes playoff wins at Green Bay and almost leading the 49ers to an NFC Championship win over the Seattle Seahawks, but his 2013 season as a whole had a share of disappointments.
Kaepernick's completion percentage was 58.4%, which was 31st among quarterbacks in the NFL. The 49ers passing offense was ranked as one of the lowest during the 2013 season, large in part due to Michael Crabtree missing majority of the year with a torn Achilles. When previously asked about the statistical problems in the passing game, Kaepernick could easily fall back on the 49ers record of 12-4 saying it's not a problem.
However, the biggest contribution to the 49ers winning games has been the offensive line and the defense as a whole. In each game while in a losing or winning effort, the 49ers defense played well enough to win in 2013. In some games, the defense was left on the field longer than they needed to, which includes the losses to the Seahawks and Colts in weeks two and three.
Offensively, Kaepernick has shown others he can make the plays like anyone else, but the level of consistency was a problem. When Vernon Davis went down and Anquan Boldin was his only target vs. the Colts and later Panthers, the 49ers quarterback was lost. The coaching staff knows what Kaepernick's tools and strengths are, but he showed problems when an opposing defense had solid coverage and would prevent any running.
With the 49ers quarterback being one of the highest paid in the league, he needs to prove his worth and show he is an elite quarterback. It might not be a fair comparison because he has only started in 18 regular season games, but Kaepernick has officially been paid and the "bang" for buck must be measured up to his contract.
The 49ers did what they needed to do just so that their backs are not against the wall after the 2014 season, but they're still taking a gamble to lock up Kaepernick for six more seasons. It's not that he hasn't proven anything, but he is still a QB who is not at the elite level yet.
With this new contract, Kaepernick is no longer a quarterback on training wheels who is still learning or developing. He is considered to be a franchise quarterback by what he is getting paid and now will be his chance to prove it.