- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It is not uncommon for NFL contracts to become outdated in a hurry.
Someone is always signing a new deal or an extension to become the highest-paid this or the highest-paid that.
So when Colin Kaepernick signed his contract extension with the San Francisco 49ers last week, the initial reports suggested his deal contained more guaranteed money than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s highest-paid player.
On paper, Kaepernick signed a six-year, $114 million extension that contained $61 million in guaranteed money. But in this case, the definition of guarantee is a loose one.
As ESPN’s John Clayton pointed out in his weekend Mailbag column, Kaepernick's deal is much more of a pay-as-you-play contract than the five-year, $110 million extension Rodgers signed on April 26, 2013. Rodgers’ deal was loaded with real guarantees.
Rodgers' signing bonus of $35 million followed by a guaranteed roster bonus of $9.5 million that was paid this March and another one worth $9.5 million due next March brought his guaranteed money to $54 million in real dollars.
For those who were outraged that Kaepernick received more guaranteed money, a closer examination of the deal revealed that those were "soft" guarantees. Kaepernick's yearly guarantees don't become such until April 1 before each season, meaning the 49ers can get out from under the deal at any point without paying those so-called guarantees.
So for the time being, even though Kaepernick has the potential to collect more than Rodgers, it's not accurate to call him the higher paid at this point.
Perhaps the best measure when comparing contracts is a three-year window. Looking at it that way, here's a breakdown of the top quarterback contracts by average per year, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data:
Matt Ryan, Atlanta: $22.9 million
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: $22.7 million
Joe Flacco, Baltimore: $20.7 million
Drew Brees, New Orleans: $20.3 million
Peyton Manning, Denver: $19.3 million
Tony Romo, Dallas: $18.0 million
Jay Cutler, Chicago: $18.0 million
Matthew Stafford, Detroit: $17.7 million
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: $17.6 million
Philip Rivers, San Diego: $16.8 million
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco: $14.7 million
Three of the quarterbacks on the list -- Ryan, Cutler and Kaepernick -- signed their deals after Rodgers did his 14 months ago. In that time, Rodgers' contract has held up. He remains the highest-paid quarterback with a $22 million-per-year average over the life his deal.
Maybe Russell Wilson, the next quarterback likely to cash in, will surpass him. But Kaepernick's deal did not.