If you're expecting us to arrive at a conclusive answer to this question, you're out of luck. The point we're going to attempt to make is that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is incredibly difficult to — for lack of a better term — appraise.
Kaepernick is undoubtedly one of the game's most dynamic players. He's led the 49ers to within reaching distance of the Lombardi Trophy in back-to-back seasons and is only 26 years old. On the surface, that alone should mean he's worth a massive payday in the very near future. After all, Kaepernick is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which pays him less than $1 million per season.
But the dude has only started 23 career regular-season games and was merely the league's 10th highest-rated passer in 2013. He's never had a 25-touchdown campaign, which makes you wonder if he's worth the $18 million salary he's reportedly seeking.
The 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick began discussions on a new contract extension at the combine, and sources tell us that the three-year veteran wants a deal similar or slightly better than the ones given to Jay Cutler ($18.1 million per year, $38 million guarantee) and Tony Romo ($18 million per year, $40 million guarantee). While no one expects the 49ers to let Kaepernick go anywhere, we hear that if the 49ers don’t get in Kaepernick’s range, the quarterback would be willing to play the 2014 season at his base salary of $973,766 and postpone negotiations until next offseason instead of signing a below-market deal
Again, Kaepernick's sample size is still so small that you have to wonder if both he and the 49ers would be better off giving this a year. It's not as though the team doesn't have the franchise tag, just in case.
This is a guy who has been positively electric in some big moments, rising to several key occasions. But he's not your standard franchise pocket quarterback. He's different. He's a runner, which forces you to wonder if the league will eventually catch up with him the way it has so many other quarterbacks who made the mistake of relying too heavily on their mobility. That could scare the 49ers, as could the risk of injury.
He's also still so green in terms of his cadence and his progressions that you can't be certain he's a lock to last. The Niners have been very successful with Kaepernick under center, but they have a hell of a defense, a great running game and are well coached. His career playoff rating is only 87.3, with a completion percentage of 58.0.
Is Kaepernick a fad? Maybe, maybe not. Are you willing to commit $18 million a year without knowing for sure? In this quarterback-hungry league, I'd bet someone will be. But right now, Kaepernick belongs to the 49ers and only the 49ers. And right now, that kind of money seems silly, especially when you consider that proven studs like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger make less.
Still, it's too early to know for sure. That's what makes this so difficult.