Beyond The Mic: Wilson And Kaepernick Are True NFL MVPs
Whoever represents the NFC in the Super Bowl may have the most valuable player in the league under center. Neither is the MVP of the league in a traditional sense. Neither is as good as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers. But, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, possess a true value that far exceeds their contract.
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning is a shoe-in to capture his 5th NFL MVP award this season. Manning set NFL records in passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55) in 2013, leading his team to the #1 seed in the AFC, and a playoff victory. His Broncos will host the New England Patriots Sunday.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings, his last coming in the 2005 season. After leading the Pats to a third championship, he signed a $48.5 million dollar contract, that paid him around $12.1 million a season. He has since signed a larger contract, but the point is, in today's NFL landscape, if you lead a team to a Super Bowl victory, or at the very least, a fighting chance to reach the NFL's biggest game, you'll earn a big payday.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finished out his rookie contract the same year he won a Super Bowl. Last offseason, he signed a six-year deal worth $120.6 million.
This season, Brady's current contract accounted for $13.8 million of the Patriots cap. Peyton Manning's? $17.5 million of cap space. How about Saints quarterback Drew Brees? $17,400,000. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was less, accounting for $12 million of cap room, though next year the number increases to $17.9 million.
All four QBs are considered the best in pro football. All four, at this point in their career, are better than Kaepernick and Wilson, though many would argue Kaepernick and Wilson are top 10 in the league at the QB position. So how much cap space did they account for this season?
First, let's breakdown their rookie contracts. When Kaepernick was drafted in the 2nd round of 2011 (36th overall), he received a four-year, $5.129 million contract. In 2013, Kaepernick earned $740,844, only accounting for $1,397,532 of San Francisco's salary cap. How many players in the league had bigger cap numbers than Kaepernick? 616. What's the point? His value far exceeds his contract.
How about Russell Wilson. In 2012, Seattle drafted him in the 3rd round (75th overall), inking him to a four-year, $2.198 million deal. How much did he make in 2013? He earned $526,217, and only accounted for $681,085 of the Seahawks salary cap. How many players in the league had bigger cap numbers than Wilson? 931.
Football is obviously a team sport, but without a solid quarterback, a team's chances of winning a Super Bowl in today's landscape are slim. While Wilson and Kaepernick haven't won a Super Bowl, Kaepernick played in the big game last year, and one of the two will play in it on February 2nd. Both players are surrounded by elite talent on both sides of the ball, because their respective teams can spend more money elsewhere.
Wilson and Kaepernick will eventually earn a big payday, and deservedly so. When they do, it will be impossible for them to exceed the value of their next contracts, the same way their exceeding the value of their current contracts.
Being a pro bowl quarterback for a championship caliber team, while also having the 617th and 932nd biggest cap number in football, makes them the most valuable players in football. Does it mean they're better than Manning, Brees, Brady, and Rodgers? No. But measuring a player's value in football isn't as simple as asking if he's the best. This isn't Tecmo Super Bowl.
The 5 biggest salary cap numbers in 2013 were Giants QB Eli Manning ($20,850,000), Lions QB Matthew Stafford ($17,820,000), Peyton Manning, Brees, and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen ($17,063,956).
The year will come when Wilson and Kaepernick are in the top 10 of salary cap numbers, and when they are, they may actually be better football players than they are today. Will they be more valuable? No.
Being top 10 at at the quarterback position, but 617 and 932 on the salary cap list, makes them more valuable today than they'll be in the 4 years.
How about a runner-up? Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was first-team AP All-Pro at tight end. 591 players (including 28 tight ends) in the NFL had a bigger cap number than his $1.49 million. He's earned his next contract, and will be paid accordingly next season (unless he plays on a one year TE franchise tag). Again, he may be better in 2014, but not as valuable.