Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick became an exceedingly rich man yesterday, signing a massive six-year, $126 million dollar extension with an almost unheard of $61 million in guarantees. Kaepernick’s gargantuan guarantee is not without some safety precautions built in for the team, however, as all of that money can essentially be summed up as huge glorified roster bonuses and performance incentives. For a quarterback that is as big a work in progress as Kaepernick, it makes sense for the San Francisco front office to protect themselves in such a manner. They have their quarterback (for better or worse), and Kaepernick has his pile of cash – everybody wins.
Such an extension begs the question, however, of what this means for the other super stars of the 2011 draft class. Richard Sherman was the first member of the 2011 class to sign a big money contract, which Kaepernick topped, but both of those "early" extensions were the product of their respective teams not having the leverage of a cheap fifth year option. Next summer should be a constant procession of gigantic contracts with many former first rounders entering the final years of their rookie deals. Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, Julius Thomas, and even Andy Dalton (The Pride of Katy) should be in line for big extensions, but every single one of them might pale in comparison to the truckloads of money that are about to be thrown at J.J. Watt.
Watt, who very well may be the first defender since Reggie White and Bruce Smith to be making a beeline for the Hall of Fame within his first three seasons, has unquestionably been the most dominant single player on the face of the planet for the past two years. The combination of talent, production, work ethic, leadership, and sheer marketability that Watt brings to the table is priceless. He is without a doubt the face of the Houston Texans, and perhaps one of the faces of the entire NFL itself. On the open market, there is no telling what someone like Watt could command. $100 million dollars is almost a forgone conclusion – the real question is if Watt can get "quarterback money" as a defensive end. Can the most valuable young defender in the league get the same kind of cash as, let’s say, the twelfth most valuable quarterback? If the Texans use Colin Kaepernick’s contract as a benchmark for pure value, it certainly is not out of the question. Houston may have only won two games in 2013 with Watt, but that disaster of a season would have been so, so much worse without Watt. The 2008 Lions come to mind.
2014 is a big year for J.J. Watt. If he is finally relieved of constant double and triple teams by the presence of Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Louis Nix and puts up the same astronomical numbers year after year, I would personally argue that he would be worth every penny of a Kaepernick-like $126 million dollar extension. Watt is one of the few players to come along in the last thirty years who has a realistic shot at eventually earning a place next to the all-time greats. He is a philanthropist, a teacher, a leader, and a stone-cold quarterback killer all at the same time. When it comes to football unicorns like this, no price is too high.