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Kaepernick-Broncos relationship just isn't the right fit for anyone

Sam Cowhick Avatar
April 8, 2016


Colin Kaepernick is an intriguing player. He is only 28 years old, yet already owns playoff quarterback rushing records, has started a Super Bowl and has already lived the highs and lows of a career in five short seasons. He is not done playing in the National Football League, but while negotiations and proverbial games of chicken are played between he, the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers, the season creeps closer and closer and the fit in Denver seems more forced than right.

The simplest viewpoint to understand is Kaepernick’s. He signed a front office-friendly contract in 2014 for six years and up to $114 million, less than half of it guaranteed. Also, according to Spotrac, his contract includes annual descalators of $2 million each season for things like major injuries, playing time percentages and failure to make first or second team All-Pro.

After earning that contract in 2012 and 2013 with top-five quarterback play, he has had a highly publicized decline to back up duty in San Francisco, undergone multiple surgeries in the offseason but finds himself with $12.9 million guaranteed in 2016. From his vantage point, surely he is disappointed with the past two seasons but has some security. Why would he risk a reported massive pay cut to his only real payday in his career to date instead of play out another season in San Francisco? He simply should not, he holds all the leverage in respect to where he plays in 2016.

At first glance, his contract seems enormous for a player with such a recent dramatic decline on the field but his 2016 contract places him slightly higher than the middle of NFL quarterbacks in average, base and total cash salary. His next pay day is far from certain and he has the leverage, the best kind, guaranteed money on his side.

For the Broncos, Kaepernick is a tempting option. He has the unique combination of speed and arm strength that few possess in the NFL, the thought of him on a Kubiak-inspired, play-action bootleg pass would strike fear into the opposition in April, let alone September but he hasn’t played in that system very much. Kaepernick enjoys the shotgun or pistol formations, with read-options. It is a style he played in at the University of Nevada and that Jim Harbaugh implemented and he excelled at in 2012. Under center, which Kubiak is aching to reincorporate with his next signal caller, is not Kaepernick’s strength. He had some experience and varying success under center in 2015 with offensive coordinator Geep Chryst but then his play deteriorated, leading to his benching in November.

Secondly, and more importantly, the Broncos are asking either Kaepernick to take a pay cut or the 49ers to take on reportedly around $5 million dollars off of his 2016 contract. That is a wonderful approach and idea from their standpoint but one that is not likely to happen. That is where the stalemate seems to lie as of today.

For the sake of argument, if the Broncos get Kaepernick at around $7 million in 2016 there is still the question the remaining four years of his contract, in which his base salary increases steadily from $14.5 million in 2017 to $19 million in 2020. General manager John Elway has already begun to stack dead money with the release of Louis Vasquez ($1.25 million), Owen Daniels ($2 million), Peyton Manning ($2.5 million) and others. And while that is necessary, it is most often wasteful. Following 2016, Kaepernick would would exceed all of those numbers. Kaepernick’s dead cap money for the 2017 and 2018 seasons sits at nearly $5 million and $2.5 million respectively.

And maybe the best argument against Kaepernick to the Broncos from the team’s perspective is that there are several cheaper options in play that are seemingly much less complicated. While quarterback Mark Sanchez has already led a passing camp with teammates this past week and drawn praise from Elway and Kubiak combined cheaper additions to the position group remain in paly for Denver. Josh McCown, Tyrod Taylor, Brian Hoyer and the draft represent just that. The Broncos are displaying no panic and need to stay that course.

Lastly, the 49ers are in a no-win situation at this point and paying a player nearly $6 million to leave, as Elway’s is reportedly demanding, is not only embarrassing but not fiscally responsible. Kaepernick has the talent to thrive in head coach Chip Kelly’s face-paced, mostly shotgun-based offense if he can win the job back. How realistic that is remains to be seen due to the multitude of mixed signals the 49ers front office and Kelly have been sending. The fact that they allowed the Broncos to meet Kaepernick was maybe the worst signal of all if they intended on keep him, yet Monday he showed up for the team’s first workouts.

Now that they are back on the field together the logical, but tough decision to pay their No. 2 quarterback $12.9 million for at least one more season, is the best play. Kaepernick does have a fighting chance to win over a new coaching staff and if he does not his services could be in higher demand when the punishment of the regular season comes into play for the other 31 teams in the NFL and their quarterbacks.

The move of Kaepernick to the Broncos seemed like a genuinely good match the second Brock Osweiler left town but months have gone by, reports upon reports of different stances and demands have floated through the internet and left standing is three parties trying to squeeze their metaphorical size 38 waist into some size 34 jeans. It simply doesn’t work and ultimately they will be just uncomfortable and looking for a new pair. The 49ers and Kaepernick agreed to their deal and now they have to let it play out for one more year. The Broncos have depth now, and options for the near future. It was a good effort by all, but it just isn’t the right fit.

*all contract figures are provided by spotrac.com unless otherwise noted


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