San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke and Seattle general manager John Schneider weren't the only ones to help build the 49ers and Seahawks. The collective bargaining agreement also did.
While the Ravens, Packers, Cowboys and Lions are paying premium prices for their franchise quarterbacks, the 49ers and Seahawks -- thanks to the CBA -- are not.
This season, in what will be the final year of the contract before it is restructured and extended, the 49ers will pay Colin Kaepernick a base salary of $741,000. The Seahawks will pay Russell Wilson a base salary of $525,000. San Francisco and Seattle will do this at a time when Denver will pay Peyton Manning a base salary of $882,352 per week, meaning Manning will make more in one week this season than either Wilson or Kaepernick will all season.
The two NFC West rivals, each of whom is a favorite to win the NFC championship, have an excess of cash and salary-cap space to upgrade their rosters in other areas because they are prohibited from giving that money to their quarterbacks.
Instead, the 49ers can absorb the $6 million base salary for wide receiver Anquan Boldin that the Ravens could not. The Seahawks can take on a two-year, $15 million deal for defensive end Cliff Avril that the Lions struggled to fit in. Seattle and San Francisco can spend money where they want, when they want, because they do not have to save it for their quarterbacks.
Teams tied to successful quarterbacks with contracts done under the new CBA have a decided advantage against teams tied to successful quarterbacks with contracts done under the old CBA. Just look at the $41.5 million in guaranteed money the Lions handed Matthew Stafford this offseason compared to the $22.1 million in guaranteed money the Colts are paying Andrew Luck for his first four seasons. Advantage, Colts.
Teams that hit on quarterbacks early now get a double reward. They get a talented player at the most important position in the sport. And almost as significant, they get financial flexibility that teams with veteran quarterbacks cannot have.
Kaepernick and Wilson are the two biggest bargains in the game, maybe in all of sports. Their talents give their teams a decided advantage in the chase for an NFC championship and Super Bowl berth. Their contracts give their teams another.
• Getting to know Chip: After watching what the Eagles did Monday night, the football world wants to know as much as it can about Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly. During the offseason, Kelly filled out a questionnaire for the NFL that provided a glimpse into the mind of the man.
Hobbies: Reading, golfing
Last book read (and author): "My Share of the Task: A Memoir" by Gen. Stanley McChrystal
Favorite movie: "The Shawshank Redemption"
Favorite food: Sandwiches
Favorite vacation spot: Portsmouth, N.H.
Favorite college town: Eugene, Ore.
Favorite sports uniform other than your own: Boston Celtics
Person you'd most like to meet: Steve Prefontaine
Loudest crowd of your football career, home or away: Oregon home games
Most knowledgeable football writer you've ever met: Tom Rinaldi, ESPN
Most overrated aspect of football: The NFL draft
Most underrated aspect of football: Preparation
Who has the hardest job in football: No one; it's a game
One thing you'd change about NFL football: Expand the roster to 60 players
One thing that should never change about NFL football: Games should be played on Sundays
If you weren't coaching, what would you be doing: Fireman
• Full circle for Waters: Not too many players have been teammates with their head coach. Recently signed Cowboys guard Brian Waters has. In 1999, Waters was an undrafted free-agent fullback and tight end in the Dallas Cowboys' camp, where one of the quarterbacks he worked with was backup Jason Garrett. Dallas cut Waters, who went on to become a Pro Bowl guard in Kansas City and New England, before he returned last week to the Cowboys, whose head coach now is Garrett.
Garrett knows just the type of athlete Waters is. When Waters played tight end at North Texas, he caught 86 passes for 975 yards and nine touchdowns -- more than the 68 catches for 797 yards and seven touchdowns that tight end Jason Witten had at Tennessee. It's the reason Dallas initially was so intrigued by Waters.
Now there is more intrigue. In his first regular-season game as a Cowboy, Waters will go up against his former team, the Chiefs. And the man who was responsible for bringing Waters to Kansas City is former Chiefs front-office executive John Schneider, now the Seahawks' general manager who has found some gems of his own in Seattle.
The Cowboys need Waters -- some 14 years after they brought him to Dallas as a teammate of Garrett's. One NFL executive said it will be difficult for Waters to remain healthy after taking off last year and not going through camp this year. But if he can, the Cowboys have added one of the top guards in the game.
The Schef's specialties
• Game of the week: 49ers at Seahawks -- A potential NFC Championship Game preview.
• Upset of the week: N.Y. Giants over Denver -- Giants, at home, have to have a win; Broncos don't.
• Survivor pick of the week: Eagles over Chargers -- Late game Monday night for San Diego, early start Sunday morning is a tough combination to overcome.
• Player of the week: Falcons RB Steven Jackson -- Chance to go up against his former team in a game that Atlanta needs to win.