Colin Kaepernick can't cash in
Adam Schefter [ARCHIVE]
January 28, 2013
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has found holes in opposing defenses and the CBA.

Thanks to the collective bargaining agreement that the NFL and NFLPA negotiated in July 2011, what San Francisco is paying Kaepernick to take the team to Super Bowl XLVII is a steal. And the Seattle Seahawks are paying even less to quarterback Russell Wilson, who took the team to the divisional playoff round and set up the franchise for the next decade.

There might not be two athletes in any sport as underpaid as Kaepernick and Wilson, two NFC West quarterbacks who figure to square off for years to come. It's off-the-charts ridiculousness, their salaries. It's thievery, nearly criminal.

Sixty minutes from a world championship, Kaepernick is finishing up Year Two of a four-year, $5.12 million deal that is worth more than $3 million less in full than what Mark Sanchez will make from the New York Jets next season.

Yet Kaepernick has no out. He is locked into the deal until after the 2013 season.

Wilson's deal is even more glaringly incongruous. He signed a four-year, $2.99 million deal that is worth $6 million less in full than what Kevin Kolb is scheduled to make from Seattle's division rival Arizona Cardinals next season.

Like Kaepernick, Wilson has no way out. He is stuck with the deal until after the 2014 season, despite being added to the Pro Bowl this week and looking like he could go for years to come.

These two deals expose one of the biggest weaknesses in the CBA for the players and one of the biggest strengths for owners. Young NFL players have no choice but to suck it up for three years, even if they play at the level Kaepernick and Wilson have. Meanwhile, NFL owners get to build cheaply through the draft and own players' rights for five to six years, without the threat of arbitration that Major League Baseball has.

This is why good scouting and draft picks really are more valuable than ever before. The NFL never has seen good labor this cheap for this long.

How the league got here is easy enough to understand. During the most recent CBA negotiations, we saw an extreme backlash against the outlandish deals given to top draft picks in previous years, when a player such as former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell walked away with $32 million in guaranteed money. So much attention was given to the issue that standout rookies in the new 10-year CBA now are being punished for it. In part because of Russell, Kaepernick and Wilson are underpaid.

There is no reprieve, no chance to be paid until a player has given a team three seasons. By then, some running backs, such as an Alfred Morris, will have plenty of wear on their tires. And as everyone prepares for Super Bowl XLVII, the storylines that follow it will be different than in the past.

Young players such as Kaepernick who help lead their team to the Super Bowl cannot demand new deals the way they seemed to regularly in the past. It used to be like this: Player helps team to Super Bowl, player demands new deal, team rewards player for helping team, new deal gets done.

But that was old-school. New-school is the ultimate form of detention for standout young players. The CBA locks up their contracts for three years and throws away the key, with no chance of parole.

It would be much more equitable if certain allowances were made for extreme examples, players who glaringly outplay expectations. It would be hard to define what that level of play is, but suffice it to say that everyone would know. Any player who helps lead his team to the Super Bowl in his second year, as Kaepernick has done, or goes to the Pro Bowl in his first year, the way Wilson has, deserves to be rewarded, at least more than his existing rookie deal does.

Until the rules are adjusted, the players will continue to be wronged. And after watching Kaepernick and Wilson this season and seeing what they will earn in future seasons, one truth is self-evident: The holes in the CBA are a lot bigger than any they find in opposing defenses.

On to this week's 10 Spot:

1. More QB contract talk: There is no drama surrounding Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's contract, despite all the talk about it. The Ravens will sign him to a mega long-term deal or place their franchise tag on him, but either way, he is not leaving Baltimore.

The more interesting quarterback contract is the one belonging to San Francisco's Alex Smith, who will be the object of speculation from Kansas City to Philadelphia to Buffalo. And here's the CliffsNotes version of Smith's contract, for anyone wondering about it.

If Smith is still on the 49ers' roster April 1, his $7.5 million salary becomes fully guaranteed, per a review of the deal, no questions asked. Most around the league expect the 49ers to make their move with Smith well before then.

But there are other dates that have ramifications for Smith as well. If he is traded by the third day of the league year -- March 14 -- then the 49ers owe him nothing. If Smith is cut before the third day of the league year, the 49ers owe him a $1 million roster bonus. If Smith is cut after the third day of the league year, the 49ers owe him a $2 million roster bonus.

In a perfect world, San Francisco would find a trade partner and deal Smith before March 14. But it will not be easy to find a trade partner or work out a deal. Any team that wants Smith might be willing to wait for him to be cut, putting more pressure on the 49ers. The most logical outcome might be for San Francisco to eat the $1 million roster bonus and release Smith. And then the speculation really would begin.

But whichever way it goes, San Francisco has another big quarterback decision to make on top of the one it made to bench Smith for Kaepernick.

As much talk as Flacco's new contract will generate, the Super Bowl quarterback with the most intriguing contractual situation is Smith.

2. Emotional moment: The most emotional moment in Baltimore's victory celebration came when former Ravens linebacker and current senior adviser O.J. Brigance, battling ALS since 2007, was asked to present the Lamar Hunt Trophy to his team. Through his computer, Brigance typed with his eyes the message he wanted to express to the men of his organization: "Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are the AFC Champions. You are my mighty men. With God, all things are possible." Brigance has been an inspiration to the Ravens and anyone who has seen his story. ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" aired the most memorable feature of this postseason on Brigance earlier this month. It is recommended watching as a primer on how Baltimore has been motivated and inspired and will be again in its matchup against San Francisco.

3. Support wasn't dropped:...
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