Here is a link to my Wednesday column about Colin Kaepernick’s potential new contract. The full text runs below:

SANTA CLARA – On Tuesday, Colin Kaepernick looked like a playing card.

He wore a jet black jersey with a blazing red seven on it. The seven of diamonds. This was during a 49ers offseason practice. You wanted to use him for an inside straight. Draw him as your last card, a closed card and flip Colin over to win the hand. All other 49ers wore red jerseys with white numbers.

Kaepernick is different. He is the most important Niner except for Jim Harbaugh. During one practice last season, Harbaugh determined a defender had come too close to Kaepernick — to the franchise, if you will. After that, Harbaugh mandated the red-on-black jersey so Kaepernick would stand out and work in a violence-free zone. No other 49ers quarterback wears the playing-card jersey. Alex Smith never did.

The Niners brag they are a rough-and-tumble team. They are except for Kaepernick. They don’t dare risk rough and tumble with him.

Mr. Red Seven is so important the 49ers have resumed contract negotiations with him — reportedly resumed negotiations. There was a snag in negotiating after Kaepernick’s snag a while back in Miami, but nothing came of that. Call the Miami snag a false snag.

The contract negotiations reportedly involve at least $18 million a year for however many years. That’s a lot of dough. I would have asked Kaepernick and Harbaugh about it, but they didn’t talk with the media on Tuesday, talking to the media once a week in the casualness of the offseason being so onerous.

The $18 million approaches Aaron Rodgers territory — he is the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and a more accomplished quarterback than Kaepernick.

You disagree?

The Niners can spend whatever they want on Kaepernick. It’s Jed York’s money and it’s not mine. I’m just saying this.

It’s a big gamble to lock up Kaepernick at $18 million for several years when he has proved so little. He has not won a Super Bowl, but that 18 million number feels like a Super Bowl winning payoff. And, yes, I know Jay Cutler makes that much and he never won a Super Bowl. Just because the Bears are careless with their dough doesn’t mean the Niners have to be careless, too.

Kaepernick has not been selected to play in the Pro Bowl. Kaepernick went backward last year, which means his play declined. Kaepernick is not an especially good pocket passer. Kaepernick ended last season the same way he ended the previous season — screwing up in the red zone, failing to win.

Kaepernick almost never looks one way and throws the other — he continued this curious trend at Tuesday’s practice against zero pass rush. Kaepernick has played only 29 games including the postseason. Is it wise to commit your future to a man that inexperienced, to a man who has not taken you where you want to go?

Me, I’d make him play out this season, his final season under the present contract. I’d see what he brings. If he’s great and if he wins the Super Bowl, pay him a fortune. But make him earn it. Don’t award it to him on faith.

The Giants, by the way, are doing precisely that with Pablo Sandoval. There’s no law against being prudent.

Kaepernick had a so-so practice on Tuesday, threw a few TD passes but missed open receivers. He overthrew guys. He threw one pass so low the receiver had to sit down on the grass to grab it — he didn’t grab it.

I expect the 49ers to cave and redo Kaepernick’s contract for about $18 million a year. If he gets that money, Kaepernick becomes the face of the franchise. There is a responsibility in being the face of the franchise. A man in that position needs to act a certain way.

He needs to be dignified. He needs to look you in the eye. He needs to speak well. He needs to answer in complete sentences. He needs to avoid sentence fragments. He needs to be polite. He needs to understand the other guy’s point of view. He needs to care about it. He needs to be grown up.

Last season, Kaepernick would address the media on Wednesdays in the locker room in Santa Clara. The 49ers had set up an interview tent including a stage, a microphone and chairs for the media — everything to make the interaction professional. Kaepernick did not care to use that facility.

He would make the media wait in the locker room and then he would suddenly appear. He would begin to walk. He made the media trail after him. He would pretend to stop but then he would commence walking again. He enjoyed this. He did this act on a weekly basis.

You may not care about the media, but what Kaepernick did was mean. Some media members lugged heavy cameras. Kaepernick created a burden for them. Many were older than he is. He was disrespectful to them for no good reason. It never is right to be disrespectful.

He finally would stop near another player’s locker and talk mostly in monosyllables. That is his style although he is intelligent and knows how to talk.

One former 49er told me he’d be ticked off if Kaepernick brought the media to his locker. “I’d tell him, ‘Go to your own locker,’” the former Niner said.

I was not in Santa Clara when Kaepernick met the media last Thursday. I am told he spoke to reporters near the field. I am told the session was polite and orderly. I am told he answered at length and thoughtfully, did everything he was supposed to do. I applaud that. I can’t help thinking he could have done that last season and not been a doofus.

I hope this laudatory behavior continues. I hope he earns the big money he may get and appreciates it. And I hope he learns this basic truth about life.

It’s OK to be a playing card at practice. But other things trump that.

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 lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.


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  1. htwaits

    Lowell, you certainly know how to mix your messages, and you’ve certainly pounded on these same massages over, and over again.

    June 3rd, 2014 9:47 pm

  2. Dennis

    Who is the face of the 49er franchise right now and does he meet all the criteria you say Kaepernick needs to meet to be the new face? My guess is the face is Harbaugh and he doesn’t meet that criteria and the 49ers are doing just fine. So why does Kaepernick need to meet it?

    June 4th, 2014 8:22 am

  3. dharte

    It will be interesting to see how greedy Colin Kaepernick is. If the yearly figure averages out above 18 million, he’s just gutted his own offensive line and the team will suffer almost immediately with the loss of Boone or Iupati, maybe both. Peyton Manning has always soaked his teams for every last dollar, while Tom Brady has taken less to insure better players around him; not coincidentally, Brady has had the more successful career, and I suspect that Manning will fall just above Dan Marino in the NFL history books, while Brady will be mentioned with Joe Montana. Winning titles is always the final test of any QB. (Strangely, Peyton Manning never seemed to learn that lesson from his dad.)

    So Colin Kaepernick would do well to understand such brutal fact: in the end he’ll be judged on Super Bowls, nothing else. Another 10 million in the bank is only going to comfort him so far (of course he’ll have more many than he can spend either way), but perhaps a phone call to Marino is now in order?

    You need Iupati, kid. Take less and join him in the Hall of Fame…because as of right now, you’ve won nothing that matters in this town.

    June 4th, 2014 10:01 am

  4. jason

    I hate the seahawks but dang… I wish our QB was more like him.

    June 4th, 2014 10:04 am

  5. Dr Feelgood

    As fans, we have a fan-level approach to talent evaluation. How should Colin be rated?
    -He passes the eye test- big, strong, fast, great arm. He could be a good wide receiver, maybe tight end, maybe OLB.
    He also could be a great QB.
    -But he is not a GREAT QB. That, or, he has not had the tools around him to allow him to show his greatness. We’ve continually been fed the excuse about a lack of depth in WR talent on this team.
    -So, OK. give Colin a pass for not having enough quality teammates.
    -Now, 2014, the team ostensibly has depth and talent at the WR position.
    -So, does Colin make the jump to greatness? Does his accuracy improve? Will he stand in the pocket and not bail out to run-and-gun? Will he find secondary receivers? CAN he find secondary receivers? Will he be now able to “look off” the DB’s?
    -Aren’t those the skills that the QB should have BEFORE he is given the keys to the car? My feeling is that Colin’s shortcomings ARE his shortcomings, and not something an improved cast of players is going to remedy.
    -Baalke is very smart, he knows all of this. If Colin gets his extension, then by extension, Baalke is of the belief that Colin’s shortcomings are primarily a roster issue, an issue the GM has presumably remedied.
    -But really, how certain, how comfortable are YOU that Colin is now “fixed” and ready for greatness? I have serious doubts, Sure hope I’m wrong.
    -So, to get to the point- wouldn’t it be prudent to put off contract renegotiation until later in, or after, the season? Let’s see if Colin is worth 20mil a year. If he gets the dough but remains the same QB, what kind of financial bind does that rope the team into?

    June 4th, 2014 10:31 am

  6. Mark M

    So much focus on media relations as a standard to judge his value. I say it has no correlation whatsoever. I’d rather he focus on the other issues mentioned….reading defenses and adjusting accordingly, improving accuracy. All of these guys should be cooperating with the media. It shouldn’t matter if you are making 1,2 or 20 mil. Harbaugh has set a pretty bad tone and example for his players in this area.

    He is a devastating dual threat weapon as is. He’s worth top 10 money now. I’d prefer he was paid less so his contract doesn’t prevent strength at other positions or good depth. If they can get away with it without enormously ticking him off, I’d let him play out his contract and then franchise him. That would give us the ultimate amount of flexibility, fair or not. If they sign him to a market value contract (18 mil I presume), it says he’s their guy for long term which could be the right move as the market increases and contracts continue to sky rocket, as they always do.

    In a fair world, I’d say he’s worth around 14 – 16 mil, but we all know he’ll get paid what the market will bear.

    June 4th, 2014 10:44 am

  7. mike

    the question is do you pay a player based upon what you perceive his potential to be or do you pay him based upon the results he has achieved?

    very difficult because it is a team game and many factors are involved in the successes or failures of a team’s game day result other than just the QB.

    June 4th, 2014 10:51 am

  8. CohnZohn

    mike, based upon Kaepernick’s potential, would you pay him $18 million a year for several years?

    June 4th, 2014 10:52 am

  9. Brady

    A few things:

    I guess I’m a little confused: you often talk about how west coast people are far too sensitive, and need to be willing to be more jerkish and brash. Then you chastise Colin Kaepernick for being too much like Bill Belichick and Michael Jordan, and not enough like Steph Curry.

    Furthermore, you often praise how Bill Walsh treated players based on what they WOULD do, not on what they had done; then you say the Niners should pay Kaepernick only based on what he has already achieved, not on what he will achieve.

    Finally, the fact that the Bears overpaid Jay Cutler is indeed relevant. 30 teams determine market value, which means that the Bears, Cowboys, and Ravens overpaying directly impacts the Niners. Is $18 million a year more than Kaepernick is worth, if you could quantify his impact relative to salary cap? of course.

    But if SF tries to pay him a “fair” price, he’ll go elsewhere, because the market has already determined that he is worth $18 million. And if he goes elsewhere, then the Niners are left starting over next year with a rookie QB, hoping that they don’t swing and miss on a Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, or Geno Smith.

    It’s not about “is he worth $18 million?” it’s about “could we survive without him?”

    And the answer is not a comforting one.

    June 4th, 2014 11:47 am

  10. mike

    CohnZohn – Based upon what I have seen in his time as a starter and his “regression” (in my opinion) this past season, despite the team’s success in making the play-offs again, I could not award him a mega deal averaging the $18M per year figure that currently is being discussed.

    However, I would have no qualms paying him fair market value on a long-term basis after this season if he “produces” from a statistical perspective and actually perfoms along the lines of the QB he was and/or is expected to be.

    I go by results, not by potential and am of the “what have you done for me not what you hope to do for me” school of thought.

    Ironically, he may have a statistically productive season with higher completion %, better red zone productivity, more TD passes, fewer INTs, better 3rd down conversion %, but for some bizarre reason, let’s say the Niners don’t make the play-offs.

    I still would pay him the contract because he displayed what I wanted and expected of him as a QB and a front-line performer.

    June 4th, 2014 12:24 pm

  11. Elknarps


    I understand professional athletes must work in together with the media to promote the game. Reporters and columnists help bring the players and organizations closer to the paying audience. NFL marketing is far and wide and well beyond my understanding. I know a professional athlete’s obligation extends well beyond the field.

    But I don’t care. I don’t want to hear from athletes, coaches or front office people. Making up a number; five percent of what they say means something, and even that is none of my business. Play the game between the lines and I am done before and after. I’ll know what I think I know and imagine otherwise. Ignorant and simple minded, yes. But I don’t want to hear from someone who doesn’t want to be heard – which is probably everyone with a mic under their nose. My hero is Greg Popovich, but even he has to cave in.

    My view is impossible. Professional sports does not exist without comprehensive marketing, including disingenuous player interviews. I’ll watch the game and want no part of it beyond 00.00 .

    June 4th, 2014 12:26 pm

  12. Mighty joe

    I had composed a hilarious post that was devoured by this stupid site. I’ll sum up:

    1) nobody cares how Colin treats you, Lowell.
    2) we don’t get to dictate what the market is for franchise qb’s. Its been set by Cutler and Romo and others. Kaepernick would be foolish to accept less than his worth.
    3) Furthermore 18 million isn’t what it used to be. The cap has inflated by almost 10% and is expected to continue to rise. It’s the money against the cap that matters as all football fans understand. 18 today is what 16 was 2 years ago.

    June 4th, 2014 1:13 pm

  13. Kathryn

    Sad, sad, day for 49er fans. The beginning of the end. Vets are protesting left and right with new salary/contract demands knowing that there will be nothing left now for anyone else. Locker room disfunction anyone?

    June 4th, 2014 1:39 pm

  14. Dave T

    That’s a lot of cheese he just allegedly received on his new 6 year extension. In my opinion, way too much for a QB, though has had success, has not won a championship. Perhaps he goes out and proves all the naysayers wrong. He likes doing that. But with the loss of two offensive lineman and the current holdout of his TE, do not be surprised if all that cheese looks stale and hardened at some point either.

    June 4th, 2014 3:32 pm

  15. htwaits

    Over twenty per year for at least until the 60 million guarantee runs out. Lowell, you will have fodder for your own special logic until they win the Superbowl. But, if this contract cripples the 49er squad, as you predict, there will be no Superbowl victories.

    Have the 49ers ever won a Superbowl under the cap constraints? Nope.

    Walsh/Seifert had a player budget limited only by Edy’s ego.

    June 4th, 2014 3:39 pm

  16. Dave T

    Quick note: Are the Niners looking for their next HOF Quarterback, or one that they can win a Championship with or both. Here is a list of recent HOF QB’s the round and pick number they were and those I think have or will have HOF credentials:

    Troy Aikman 1st Round 1st Pick
    Terry Bradshaw 1st 1st
    John Elway 1st 1st
    Jim Kelly 1st 14th
    Dan Marino 1st 27th
    Joe Montana 3rd 82nd
    Steve Young Supplemental Draft 1st Round
    Peyton Manning 1st 1st
    Brett Favre 2nd 33rd
    Tom Brady 6th 199th
    Ben Roethlisberger 1st 11th
    Drew Brees 2nd 32nd
    Eli Manning 1st 1st
    Kurt Warner Undrafted

    My point is that I don’t think Kaepernick is on the level of any of these players just yet. He may very well be but to spend that much of your limited salary cap on a player who does not have the same credentials that even Ben or Eli had or anywhere close to Brady is hamstringing your team down the road. Again, Kaep likes to prove people wrong, and may do just that. But as I said before, that is a lot of cheese.

    June 4th, 2014 3:56 pm

  17. htwaits

    It sounds like Kaepernick instructed his agent to negotiate a contract that would allow cap room for players like Crabtree. Of course, based on what Crabtree did with his first contract, it may not make a difference.

    June 4th, 2014 6:30 pm

  18. B-Rad

    I’m sorry that Kaepernick makes you wait in the locker room.
    Some athelete’s cavalier treatment of sport’s writers
    haunts me so.

    June 4th, 2014 7:43 pm

  19. Dr Feelgood

    Well, it didn’t take long to get an answer to Lowell’s question.

    June 4th, 2014 7:47 pm

  20. Selective Crane

    Perhaps your sentiments about media relationships would be best expressed in letter form to Mr. Kaepernick?

    June 4th, 2014 9:01 pm

  21. dharte

    This outrageous contract isn’t just “risky,” it’s an enormous mistake. The kid has choked twice now–in the Super Bowl with a 1st down on the 5 yard line, and then last year’s brain lock in the NFC Championship game, again on 1st down when challenging the league’s best CB made no sense. Both losses were the direct result of Kaepernick’s mental mistakes.

    Overpaying Kaepernick at the expense of losing Iupati, Boone, and maybe Crabtree is just foolish. And Frank Gore will certainly be gone soon, perhaps even by August if either Lattimore or Hyde shines during the preseason. There will be other players (Vernon Davis?) who will certainly demand more money as a result of this deal.

    But let’s consider the decision from a different angle. My guess is that Russell Wilson will not soak his team for every possible dollar, and as a result the Seahawks will be able to keep more good players around him. If so, Wilson will continue to win, and beat the 49ers for years to come. In other words, Tom Brady, not Peyton Manning.

    Lowell, if I’m right I do hope you rake the 49ers and Kaepernick over the coals for the “logic” behind this contract. Football is a team sport, and the only point of NFL football is a Super Bowl victory. Nothing else matters. Entertainment is not the point, winning is (a reality Don Nelson, for example, never understood). Bill Walsh and Joe Montana played for titles, always, and in the last decade Tom Brady has always known what really matters.

    So much for tattoos and flash. This is a bad day for the 49ers going forward.

    June 4th, 2014 9:06 pm

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