Colin Kaepernick is going to back on the football field playing on Sunday, starting the game at Buffalo. He will be doing so because Blaine Gabbert turned out to be Blaine Gabbert, and because he has re-negotiated his contract. He won’t have $60 million in his account when he walks away, as was initially reported two summers ago when he signed a new contract.
Check out the contrast between these tweets in June of 2014:
and the reporting last week:
Most of that money was in “injury only guarantees,” and were never likely to be realized. Now, it was something to be restructured to “alleviate concerns” from the club before they put a player back on the field, and he has “no guaranteed money.”
Back in 2014, Michael Wilbon went off about the reporting of these numbers, saying “These ridiculously absurd reckless reports about record guarantees … These contracts, and the reporting of these contracts, are frauds.”
I’ve railed against the lumping of “injury only guarantees” in contract reporting of guaranteed money, which, well, is like saying you are guaranteed to make a lot of money this year just because you are listed as a beneficiary on someone’s life insurance policy.
Colin Kaepernick will likely depart San Francisco without ever making the amount of money that was breathlessly reported initially. The “injury only” guarantee, far from being guaranteed money, has incentivized other behaviors, as we have seen here. If you are not the true star anymore, then it actually incentivizes the team to not play you–making the cynical but business decision over the product on the field in some cases. The only guarantee is that teams won’t want to pay you unless you are really worth it.
Sure, Kaepernick gets a little benefit with the re-structure. He gets a player option for next year and can opt out of making $14.5 million (it’s not clear to me if the $2 million de-escalator for not being all-pro is still in effect based on reporting). But practically, it puts us where we would have been, except now he is on the field, and now, he won’t get any money if he gets severely hurt. If he doesn’t exercise his option, he’s gone (just like he would have been had he never played this year, and got cut before the next injury-only guarantee converted to actual guaranteed money). If he does, and San Francisco doesn’t want to pay it, they cut him the next day since there is no actual guaranteed money.
Repeat after me: “injury only” guaranteed money is not guaranteed at all. Kaepernick’s twisted saga is the latest to show that.