Here is a link to my Thursday column about Colin Kaepernick. The full text appears below:
How much is Colin Kaepernick worth to the 49ers? In dollars and cents. Hard cash. Or as Charles Dickens used to call money, “the needful.”
We are not talking Kaepernick’s leadership (such as it is) or his grittiness or even his potential. We are not talking vague stuff coaches like to bring up — like he’s a champ in the locker room and he’s a winner. Blah. Blah.
How much is he worth? How much are the 49ers willing to spend on him given his talent, his production, his use to the team?
No sentiment allowed.
Point of fact: Kaepernick has one more year left on his contract, a bargain for the Niners. In 2013-2014 Kaepernick worked for a base salary of less than three-quarters of a million bucks. For you and me, that’s big money. For the quarterback of the 49ers it’s “bupkis,” Yiddish for “absolutely nothing.” The word derives from “beans,” and that’s what the 49ers pay Kaepernick. Beans — kidney, garbanzo, pinto.
Does he go from beans to gold nuggets? Well, not so fast.
Here’s the deal. The 49ers could sign Kaepernick to a contract extension before next season. That would make Kaepernick happy — depending on the numbers. And I — with no stake in the operation, no beans in the pot — say, sure, give him an extension.
Not as much as you’d think.
The Bears recently awarded Jay Cutler more than $120 million for seven years. And before this about-to-be-concluded season, the Ravens gave Joe Flacco about $120 million for six years after he won the Super Bowl — he was the Super Bowl MVP. The Ravens held off on extending Flacco before that and ended up paying through the nose, not that I’ve ever seen anyone pay through the nose or have any idea how you do that.
So, with Kaepernick are we talking something like $20 million a year, or even $15 million?
No. No. No.
You’ve got to be kidding.
Put emotion aside. Think who Kaepernick is and what he’s accomplished. The 49ers dumped Alex Smith and anointed — yes anointed — Kaepernick to win the Super Bowl. Nothing less. They didn’t anoint him to lose the Super Bowl, something he’s already done. And they didn’t anoint him to lose in the NFC championship game. Smith already did that and he came pretty cheap. The 49ers expect Kaepernick to be above the Alex Level and you could argue forcibly he is not. The 49ers inserted Kaepernick into the best team in football as the final ingredient and he did not come through.
For that, a man does not earn $20 million. Or $15 million.
Now, I’m going to use a common sports locution: “If I’m the 49ers, I don’t pay Kaepernick Flacco or Cutler money.”
For starters, I’m not the 49ers. To the best of my knowledge, no person is the 49ers considering they are a team and a corporation. Got that?
Still, if I’m the Niners, I don’t pay Kaepernick Flacco money.
I don’t make him obscenely wealthy because I think one day he just might win a Super Bowl, not sure when. I don’t pay for hypotheticals. I pay for production. And I sure don’t ruin my salary structure for Kaepernick, don’t risk losing in free agency Anquan Boldin, Donte Whitner, Phil Dawson, Tarell Brown and others. I do not degrade my team to make Kaepernick happy. Not that I’ve ever seen him happy. He acts like a man with chronic stomach ache.
The Super Bowl champion Ravens degraded their team — goodbye, Anquan — to satisfy Flacco, and they tanked this season. No thanks.
I’ll tell you something else. If I’m the 49ers, I don’t sign Kaepernick to Flacco money because I (me being the 49ers) don’t ask much from my quarterback — at least not from Kaepernick as he currently exists. Flacco, Cutler, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers — you name them — are vital to running their teams’ offenses. But the Niners run a glorified college passing game. I’m not the first to say this.
Every Kaepernick read is predetermined — even that last failure of a pass to Michael Crabtree in Seattle. It’s something like, “Colin, just make the throw we tell you to make.” The 49ers do not ask him to read the field. It’s more like they tell him to look at the defense, decide in advance — hope — which receiver will be open and throw that sucker. This is not difficult. This is not Peyton Manning studying the field.
Why should the Niners pay big money for something so remedial? I mean, really.
The 49ers could get someone else to do that. On the cheap.
Question: Why don’t the 49ers let Kaepernick play out his contract year and then slap the franchise tag on him after that?
Answer: They don’t want to franchise him. You can franchise a safety like Dashon Goldson. Safeties are cheap. Quarterbacks are expensive. We’re talking Flacco World.
There has to be another solution. Offer Kaepernick a contract extension — although I’d have no problem making him play out his contract year for bupkis. But OK, offer him an extension for the goodwill of it. Offer $7 million a season, $8 million a season, stuff like that. Modest. Sensible. What he’s worth.
Don’t expect him to take it. Let him play out his contract. If he wins the Super Bowl, give him the big bump he wants. If he doesn’t win the Super Bowl and wants more than you think he’s worth, let him walk.
If I’m the Niners, that’s what I do. I’m bigger than Colin Kaepernick, the almost winner. I’m the Niners.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.