On Sunday night, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers will take on division rival Seattle Seahawks in effort to advance to a second straight Super Bowl. If Kaepernick does come away with a big win, he could be in line for a very lucrative contract.
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports that Kaepernick could earn himself "one of the five biggest contracts in NFL history."
Kaepernick has certainly been a dynamic quarterback for the 49ers; however, the team would absolutely be jumping the gun if they were to award him such a contract once the season ends.
Signed through the 2014 season, Kaepernick's rookie deal earned him just over $5.1 million in four years, according to Spotrac.com. The quarterback would be in line for a dramatic pay increase should the rest of the season work out in his favor.
Last season, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had a successful playoff run which ended in a Super Bowl victory. Flacco was awarded a six-year, $120.6 million contract for his efforts, according to Spotrac.com.
To help fix the Ravens' offense, Joe Flacco must first address his own flaws. http://t.co/S0xnZSHMdh— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) January 19, 2014
Of course a quarterback should be awarded for winning on such a big stage; however, this is a team sport, and Flacco did not give Baltimore any reason for such a contract before last year's playoffs. The move backfired on the Ravens, as Flacco went back to his old ways in 2013:
Yes, Kaepernick and Flacco are two completely different quarterbacks; however, the reason for this comparison is the fact that we have only seen a small sample size of Kaepernick since he joined the league in 2011—much like Flacco's small sample size in last year's playoffs.
2013 was the first year that Kaepernick started a full NFL regular season. He ended the year with fairly decent numbers; although, we also saw a slight decrease in efficiency from 2012.
In 2012, Kaepernick was one of the NFL's most steadfast quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus (subscribers link) ranked him as the league's 14th-most efficient quarterback with a positive-10.8 rating. In 2013, Kaepernick took a step back and was ranked 18th overall with a positive-2.7 rating by Pro Football Focus (subscribers link).
Like Flacco, it is too difficult to accurately predict a future progression or regression for Kaepernick. When comparing his 2012 and 2013 statistics, it almost appears as if the latter will be the case:
Despite a slight regression, these are not the kind of numbers that would dictate a top-five salary.
Being that this is a team sport, the 49ers would be far better off taking care of contract extensions of defensive personnel. After all, San Francisco did finish the 2013 regular season with the league's fifth-ranked defense. It could be argued that this stout unit was responsible for more victories than Kaepernick.
Safety Donte Whitner is scheduled to hit the free-agent market in 2014, and Aldon Smith and Glenn Dorsey will become unrestricted free agents in 2015.
The offensive side of the ball is not much different. Anquan Boldin will be a free agent in 2014, and Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree will hit the free-agent market in 2015.
A huge contract for Kaepernick could mean that the 49ers would not have the means to bring back these crucial components of their team.
If this were the case, the defense would have to regroup. This comes with a large amount of uncertainty as to whether they will ever be able to regain their form. Offensively, Kaepernick would be without his most trusted weapons.
Is Kaepernick worth top-five money?
Does this scenario sound familiar? It should.
The 2013 Ravens, once again.
For the 49ers to avoid this same kind of fate, it will be imperative for the team to stay away from rushing Kaepernick into a big-money deal. A larger sample size is needed—no matter how many of his games with San Francisco result in victory.
Smart personnel decisions are the best way to keep this team in the ranks of the NFL's elite for years to come.