Technically, the deal has $61 million guaranteed, even though $6 million of the guaranteed salary could evaporate (more on that later). Either way, only $13.073 million is guaranteed at signing. It comes in the form of a $12.328 million signing bonus, a base salary of $645,000, and a workout bonus of $100,000.
For 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and part of 2018, the base salaries are guaranteed only for injury. On April 1 of each year, the guarantees convert from injury only to fully guaranteed. That gives the 49ers the ability to decide, in any given year, to move on from Kaepernick. And with the deadline for the conversion of the guarantee coming on April 1, the 49ers can squat on his rights until several weeks after the start of free agency, making it harder for him to get paid elsewhere.
The base salary for 2015 is $12.4 million, guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2015.
For 2016, the base salary is $13.9 million, guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2016.
For 2017, the base salary is $16.5 million, guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2017.
For 2018, the base salary is $17 million, $5.2 million of which is guaranteed for injury only until April 1, 2018.
The non-guaranteed base salary for 2019 is $18.8 million, and the non-guaranteed base salary for 2020 is $21 million.
In each year from 2015 through 2020, however, there’s a catch. A big one. The total payout potentially de-escalates by $2 million per year, with up to $12 million potentially going away.
Kaepernick can halt the de-escalation by taking, in any year of the deal, 80 percent of the snaps and if: (1) the 49ers appear in the Super Bowl; or (2) Kaepernick is named a first-team or second-team All-Pro. If he satisfies the requirement in 2014, the full $12 million remains. If he fails in 2014 but succeeds in 2015, $10 million stays. If he does it for the first time in 2016, $8 million remains. If he does it for the first time in 2017, $6 million stays — and so on until 2019, when if he satisfies the requirement that year for the first time $2 million stays in the deal for 2010.
It’s a convoluted way to pump up the base value of the deal artificially, allowing Kaepernick and his agents to claim that the deal is better than it will be, unless he satisfies the requirements to stop the de-escalator this year.
The contract also includes, starting in 2015, a whopping $2 million per year in per-game roster bonuses, an amount that one source characterized as “massive” in comparison to similar deals. It means that, for every game Kaepernick misses due to injury after the 2014 season, he loses $125,000.
Starting in 2015, $400,000 per year is tied to workout bonuses, which adds up to $2.4 million of the base value.
The contract also requires Kaepernick to purchase, with after-tax dollars, a disability policy that pays the 49ers $20 million if he suffers a career-ending injury.
As one source put it, Kaepernick can feel good about the deal because he has a lot more guaranteed money today than he had yesterday. But the same source also added that the 49ers are nevertheless “thrilled” with the contract, which allows them to control Kaepernick’s rights for seven years and to move on after any of the next six seasons, if they ultimately decide that Kaepernick is more like the guy who struggled at times during the 2013 regular season and less like the guy who found the gas pedal in the playoffs.
If they keep him, the average payout will be low in comparison to other franchise quarterbacks, and the difference will become glaring as other franchise quarterbacks get new deals under a salary cap that is expected to continue to spike.