The second San Francisco inked quarterback Colin Kaepernick to a 6-year, $126 million deal with $61 million in guarantees, what has been obvious was confirmed in real time.
Never mind the math. The extension the team needs to sign him to isn't meant to be one aimed at lowering his cap number. Its sole purpose is to keep the team's quarterback in place with a deal that won't spiral out of control in negotiations bumping up against its expiration.
No reasonably-minded person can say Kaepernick's body of work exceeds that of Roethlisberger's - unless we're talking physical size, but those jokes are too easy. Sure, Kaepernick has the leveraging piece of having been relatively cheap over the last few seasons while Roethlisberger has already been paid well for his nine years of service. Still, all that suggests is Ben will aim for something of a similar figure in average per year and guarantees.
Paring down Kaepernick's deal to a four-year contract, is $95 million, $40.4 million guaranteed. That kind of contract would put Roethlisberger at a cap number of around $17 million in 2014, if the team can get him to agree to a veteran minimum salary this year. And next season, the last of the dreaded restructure accounting, would put him around roughly in the same spot, provided he takes a salary increase into Year 2 (mandated by the CBA).
Maybe that's just simply what the team will need to do, at least to some degree. A longer deal brings on more risk, obviously, but perhaps Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert are simply beyond the point where fear can play a significant factor. The risk of Roethlisberger getting injured is just as high and equally painful as the risk of him seeing the crack in the free agency door, followed by him electing to pursue it, however narrow. If the Steelers lost Roethlisberger for a season, they wouldn't need a healthy salary cap, they'd need a top five pick. If Ben Roethlisberger left via free agency, they wouldn't need the added cap room, they'd....need a top five pick. That would be the absolute nightmare scenario, but that scenario is no different than the one San Francisco has with Kaepernick, Baltimore has with Joe Flacco and Green Bay has with Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay, in fact, got to see it last year. They made the active choice to rest Rodgers, not pushing his injury, in a Week 16 game against the Steelers. Pittsburgh won that game 38-31 with the Packers starting Matt Flynn. It's best not to think about what Rodgers could have done.
The math may not make the best business sense, but what choice do teams have anymore? The risk is no longer injury, the risk is being forced to use the franchise tag - all these new quarterbacks contracts will push the tag in excess of $24 million at the rate they're being signed. We'll possibly see high-caliber quarterbacks reaching free agency.
The Steelers are just going to have to find a way to bite the bullet and get Roethlisberger set, because at the end of 2015, Roethlisberger will be in the same pending free agency class as Indianapolis's Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III and Seattle's Russell Wilson, all players likely to earn Kaepernick-Plus-X-Percent, the same way Roethlisberger could easily command.