Kaepernick's Struggles Linked to Brady's Future?
It has become apparent that the San Francisco 49ers are in a state of disarray. Their most recent loss to their Bay Area (is Santa Clara really still in the bay area) rival Oakland Raiders has only served to emphasize the point, as it effectively put an end to San Francisco’s playoff hopes (Two games back in the wildcard with games versus, Seattle, Arizona and San Diego remaining). Speculation as to the future of Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has been rampant, and with stalwart veteran running back Frank Gore intimating he does not plan to be back in red and gold next season, it appears that this offseason will be one of change in Northern California.
Perhaps the most surprising development of this disappointing season is how the play of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has regressed. Only two season removed form a Super Bowl appearance, and just months after signing a new contract that could potentially be worth as much as $126 Million, There are rumblings that San Francisco might be better off moving on from Kaepernick, and surprisingly his play has indicated that just might be in the team’s best interests.
Kaepernick has struggled in 2014, completing fewer than 60% of his passes six times this season, and has failed to even break 200 yards passing in three of his last four games. This is not a new development for Kaep, who has seen his passer rating decline in each of his three seasons as a starter. In 2012, when he led the Niners to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick posted a rating of 98.3 (he only started 7 games that year), the following year it dropped to 91.6; through 14 games of the 2014 season, he has a rating of 85.1.
Over that period the embattled QB has seen his interception numbers climb (Kaep’s INT% has climbed from 1.4% in 2012 to 2.4% in 2014), and his touchdown numbers drop (TD% of 4.6 in 2012 is down to 3.9% in 2014). To give you a comparison, when Tom Brady took over in 2001, his TD% was 4.7, 4.4, and 4.7 for 2001, 02 and 03 seasons respectively; Brady’s INT% over that same span was 2.9, 2.3, and 2.3%.
The good news for the 49ers organization is that if they decide that they want to move in another direction, Kaepernick’s contract is easily to either trade or absorb by cutting him. When Kaepernick signed his extension, it was a very team friendly deal. Only the base salary in the contract is guaranteed for the 2014-2018 seasons, and his 2015 base salary of $12.4 million is guaranteed only for injury until April 1, 2015. What that means is that San Francisco can cut him prior to April first, which is several weeks into the 2015 NFL free agency period, and it would only cost them 9.9 million against the salary cap. Not bad for a contract valued at $126M….
Another team friendly aspect of this contract is a de-escalator clause that was built in. The clause states that if in any season from 2014-18 in which either the team does not make a Super Bowl appearance, OR Kaepernick is not named to the first or second team All-Pro, his annual salary reduces by $2 million dollars. Seeing as how neither are likely to happen this year, Kaepernick has already cost himself $8 Million, over the life of the contract! It would continue to decline $2 million for each season he fails to make one of those benchmarks. Kaepernick’s level of play this year has already reduced his contract from 17.69 to 15.69 million dollars in 2015.
There is a compelling case to be made either way for Kaepernick just by looking at those numbers, but an interesting wrinkle to this story involves another successful NFL signal caller, and a couple of potential what ifs. What if the Niners flip Jim Harbaugh for a king’s ransom, along the lines of the deal that Oakland got from Tampa bay for Jon Gruden (Tampa Bay's 2002 and 2003 first-round draft picks, 2002 and 2004 second-round draft picks, and $8 million in cash)? Do they blow up the whole team and try to trade up for Mariota? Or would San Francisco be better served by bundle picks together and go after an established signal caller?
Tom Brady is from San Mateo, CA, which is located just south of San Francisco. Like Kaepernick, Tom Brady has a very team friendly deal over the next three seasons. Provided he is on the New England Patriot’s roster for week 17 (which is a pretty safe assumption, unless he goes criminally insane), Brady’s contract for the next three seasons becomes fully guaranteed at 7, 8 and 9 million dollars base, plus a $6 million annual signing bonus. When you compare these two quarterbacks, would you rather have a young, unsteady Kaepernick at 15.69M or an aging Brady at 13M?
It is well known that Bill Belichick loves to stockpile draft picks; it is also believed that he sees Jimmy Garoppolo as the heir to Brady under center. Given those two pieces of information one would think that Belichick would at least have to consider the offer of two first round picks this year for Brady, right? If the 49ers were to throw in an extra pick as a sweetener, it would be very difficult for Belichick to turn down such an offer. San Francisco would get their Superstar quarterback in a reverse Joe Montana trade, allowing them to compete with the Cardinals and Seahawks in the immediate future, and Belichick gets to over stock his cupboard as well as the chance to show that he can win without Brady under center, which could secure his legacy as the GOAT at the head coaching position.
So what do you think? Should San Francisco hold on to Kaepernick? Develop a QB through the draft or go for broke and make a run at Brady? Share your thoughts in the comments below!