There is one thing we’ve learned from the Colin Kaepernick contract, worth $110 million with $61 million guaranteed: It protects the San Francisco 49ers, unlike the deal Tony Romo signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
From 2014-2018, Kaepernick’s base salaries are guaranteed only if he gets injured and can’t play that particular season.
However, on April 1 of each year, the guarantee moves from injury to fully guaranteed. So if the 49ers decide in March not to keep Kaepernick, they can let him go without any major cap hits.
This is a smart move for a franchise that appears to have found its quarterback of the future. If Kaepernick isn’t what the 49ers believe he is, then he’s gone and the huge salary-cap hits are minimized.
The Cowboys have no such insurance, if you will, regarding Romo.
When he signed his six-year, $108 million contract two years ago, it was filled with huge cap hits for the franchise.
Team executive vice president Stephen Jones has said the quarterback position takes up the bulk of the cap. At the time that Romo signed his deal, it was needed because the Cowboys didn’t have another player at his position ready to take over.
But with Romo now coming off back surgery -- he’s signed until 2019, when he’ll be 39 years old -- it raises some questions about the type of deal he signed.
Romo’s base salary is just $1 million in 2014 and his cap hit is only $11.7 million because it was a restructured deal.
In 2015, Romo will have the highest cap number for any quarterback in the league at $27.7 million. It’s in this season where the Cowboys will have to restructure his contract, yet again, to lower his cap figure.
Romo’s final year with the Cowboys might be in 2016 when he’s 36 and he could become a post-June 1 cut.
Of course, it’s easy to second-guess what the Cowboys have done with Romo’s contract. It was worth it at the time, and with his back issues of the last year, it raises questions about his health long term.
If we’ve learned anything this offseason, NFL teams are protecting themselves more than ever. The Cowboys have done this in contract deals with Sean Lee and Henry Melton.
Romo was a different situation. And now after seeing what the 49ers have done, maybe the contract should have been done differently.