Six years and up to $126 million for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. That’s not just crazy money. That’s Barry Zito money, for crying out loud!
And Zito got his $126 million for seven years.
Again, and not to belabor the point, but HOLY CRAP.
Granted, Kaepernick is 26 years old and not yet at the peak of his powers. Zito turned 29 in his first season with the Giants in 2007, and already the analytics were trending downward. Nobody seriously thought Zito was going to be better than he’d been before signing the monster deal, and pretty much everyone concedes that, barring injury, Kaepernick is going to not just improve, but improve significantly over the next several years.
Still. That’s a lot of glue — guap, cheddar, scratch, whatever the kids are calling it these days — for six years based on assumptions of maturity and health.
And stop it with “only $60 million or so is guaranteed.” It’s a massive risk. If Kap were to suffer a Joe Theismann-esque injury next season, it would be $60 million for however many games he plays before the career-ender.
But what if he doesn’t suffer anything Theismann-esque? What if he does learn to read defenses better, quicker? What if he develops the touch that he often seems to be lacking on short and intermediate routes? What if he doesn’t go the route of so many young, freshly minted gagillionaires and instead works even harder than he has to this point? (Is that even possible? Word is he’s got a maniacal work ethic, which surely made the gagillion easier to give.)
What if — and this is a pretty big stretch, given the obvious bond between QB and coach — he actually tunes out whatever misguided/myopic advice he’s getting from Jim Harbaugh and learns to play the PR game like every real superstar does and becomes someone we both love on the field and feel like we truly know off of it?
None of those glass-half-fulls are unreasonable. This is a kid who has done incredible, unbelievable things on the fly and under pressure in a very short amount of time. Give him some security, some wisdom, some experience ... why shouldn’t he get a hell of a lot better? Why shouldn’t the Niners bet on that?
Good for them, for the possibilities are endless in terms of what good might come of this contract. If you’re a Niners fan, how can you not love it? You have to love it. To hear of a young, electric, sky’s-the-limit signal-caller being secured for the foreseeable future is nothing short of a reason to bite the bullet and actually consider selling a kid or two to pay for season tickets at Levi Stadium.
So, yeah, the initial reaction is “holy crap!” It’s an unfathomable amount of money, and today’s professional-sports culture conditions us to think of what could go wrong in any and every situation.
But is it our money? Is it our risk? No. It’s somebody else’s. Yet if you’re a Niners fan, the reward is all yours.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).