Of Kaepernick and Free Agency

Spotrac has free agent quarterback contract data publicly available back through the 2011 free agency period, so I’ve focused my research on the 2011-2017 period. During that time quarterbacks switched teams in free agency 85 times. Of those 85, three signed deals worth over $10M a year:

Name Salary Guaranteed $ DYAR DVOA Year
P.Manning 19200000 1400 19.00% 2012
B.Osweiler 18000000 37000000 153 -3.20% 2016
M.Glennon 15000000 18500000 65 65.90% 2017

Let’s start with Manning. His data is actually not from 2011, but from 2010. He missed 2011 with a neck injury, which set off a chain of events. The Colts tanked for Andrew Luck, which made Manning expendable. He was allowed to become a free agent and ended up signing in Denver. He proved to still have some gas left in the tank and led the Broncos to a Super Bowl, which they lost to Seattle. Then, he ran out of gas, and was benched for Brock Osweiler (Peyton was also injured). Brock was decent in limited playing time, but once Manning was healthy, Brock went back to the bench. The defense carried them to a Super Bowl victory. Brock was displeased at his treatment, and the Texans were hopeful he was the missing piece.

Extremely Ron Howard voice:

“But he wasn’t the missing piece.”

Still, he snookered the Texans for a large sum of money, so, good for him. That brings us to Mike Glennon. Glennon threw 11 passes last season. He didn’t throw any in 2015, so his contract is rather questionable. Like Osweiler’s, it’s a gamble that a tall white quarterback that couldn’t win the starting job will be your savior. Of course, the Bears then proceeded to trade up to draft Mitch Trubisky, so the who the heck knows what their long term plan is. In any event, the list of quarterbacks who struck it rich by changing teams in free agency is mercifully short.

Next up is the list of quarterbacks who got at least $5M in guaranteed money:

C.Daniel 7000000 12000000 -28 -24.40% 2016
B.Hoyer 6000000 9850000 403 19.50% 2017
N.Foles 5500000 7000000 7 -9.30% 2017
R.Griffin 7500000 6750000 -374 -34.20% 2016
J.McCown 6000000 6000000 -269 -34.40% 2017

Chase Daniel’s numbers are actually from 2014, where he sucked in limited playing time. His agency earned their fee. I’m not sure what the Eagles were hoping for, but they clearly didn’t get it. Of course, like the Bears, they traded up for a quarterback, so we’ll see how that goes.

RG3’s numbers were from 2014. He was terrible, but the Browns rolled the dice. Or they were transparently tanking. It’s so hard to tell with modern art these days. He was awful in Cleveland last year, but perhaps that was the plan. He’s available in free agency again.

Hoyer was remarkably good last season. Good enough that I’m going to have to do a deep dive to see if he gives San Francisco some hope of returning to mediocrity this season. He’s actually been above replacement level for a while now.

Foles was a one-year wonder under Chip Kelly. He was great in 2013, decent in 2014, and fell off a cliff in 2015. Last year he was… replacement-level. Now he’s backing up Carson Wentz. Seems about right.

Finally, we come to Josh McCown. McCown was terrible last season, and has never been good. Let’s see what team was dumb enough to make him the 6 million dollar man… “@!#?@!” GDI Jets.

It’s kind of surprising that there have only been eight contracts given out with either $5m+ guaranteed or an eight figure salary. Good quarterbacks rarely hit free agency. Let’s check the 3-5M range:

B.Hoyer 5250000 4750000 166 -5.30% 2015
J.McCown 5000000 4750000 659 32.10% 2014
C.Daniel 3333333 4750000 #N/A #N/A 2013
M.Vick 4000000 4000000 40 -6.90% 2014
R.Fitzpatrick 3625000 4000000 179 -3.60% 2014
S.Hill 3250000 3200000 -46 -14.10% 2015
K.Orton 5500000 3000000 51 4.00% 2014
M.Hasselbeck 3625000 3000000 -6 -11.50% 2013
D.Stanton 2733333 3000000 174 12.20% 2013

Does Chase Daniel just interview really, really well? It’s baffling. Here’s Hoyer again. As we know from above, he turned out to be more than worth it. Oh, there’s McCown again, coming off of a career year. We know how that turned out as well. McCown’s history lead to more skepticism from the Buccaneers than the Jets showed. FML.

Vick was an odd case. He didn’t manage to accomplish much in NY, but expectations were low. Fitzpatrick managed to roll together a few solid years, albeit for two different teams. Alas, his flaws were readily evident, so the Jets played hardball with him. He eventually signed, and got his revenge by stinking up the joint.

Hasselbeck was decent his first year in Indianapolis, but faded after that. Orton was suitably mediocre in Buffalo, and that was it for him. That leaves Stanton. Stanton was a decent backup in Arizona, who got hurt not long as Palmer did. He was stunningly awful last season, but that’s not particularly important to us.

OK, that covered the quarterbacks who struck it rich (for some definitions of rich). Let’s look at the quarterbacks who put up -100 DYAR or worse heading into free agency:

Name Salary Guaranteed $ DYAR DVOA Year
B.Gradkowski 2000000 -106 -21.00% 2011
C.Painter 615000 -375 -33.30% 2012
L.McCown 825000 -250 -73.40% 2012
C.Whitehurst 1525000 1000000 -160 -49.20% 2012
B.Quinn 715000 -440 -43.80% 2013
K.Kolb 3050000 1000000 -154 -23.10% 2013
J.Campbell 1875000 500000 -129 -50.20% 2013
B.Weeden 615000 -443 -36.10% 2014
M.Vick 970000 -228 -36.80% 2015
M.Schaub 2000000 2000000 -158 -220.70% 2015
R.Griffin 7500000 6750000 -374 -34.20% 2016
N.Foles 1750000 -353 -27.90% 2016
M.Sanchez 2000000 -227 -46.90% 2016
M.Cassel 2000000 750000 -172 -23.70% 2016
M.Schaub 2750000 500000 -146 -38.40% 2016
J.McCown 6000000 6000000 -269 -34.40% 2017
C.Keenum 2000000 1000000 -185 -19.60% 2017
B.Gabbert 900000 -158 -25.40% 2017
M.Sanchez 2000000 1000000 -117 -95.70% 2017

Charlie Whitehurst was a yard away from making this list twice. We’ve covered RG3 and McCown (sigh). The best of these signings is probably Foles in Kansas City, and he’s since gone back to Philadelphia. McCown’s agent is a god. Somehow the Sanchize keeps finding work. Blaine Gabbert is in the running for retiring as the career leader in negative DYAR. As for Keenum in Minnesota, I have to think the prognosis for Bridgewater is just awful.

So, where does this leave Kaepernick? Well, let’s look at his progression:

C.Kaepernick 555 25.80% 2012
C.Kaepernick 791 16.60% 2013
C.Kaepernick 91 -8.40% 2014
C.Kaepernick -182 -21.50% 2015
C.Kaepernick -149 -17.70% 2016

It’s been a rough few years for Kaepernick. Actually, the last few years have been absolutely awful. The team around him has been bad, but so has he. It’s kind of amazing to see that he was awesome and cheap, and then lousy after getting paid:


So, what now? ESPN pontificated earlier today that the Seahawks should sign him to a $4M deal. Would he take that? I don’t know. I’m also not sure if Seattle would offer it. They have a limited amount of cap space and might be looking for a cheaper option if they decide they need one more backup quarterback.


Then again, perhaps Kaepernick would be that cheaper option. Until he actually has an offer in hand, his situation is pretty opaque. Of course, there is also this:


He’s still young, which can have some value. The fact that he hasn’t signed yet suggests the market for Kaepernick isn’t quite as strong as his age would suggest. I expect him to eventually end up on a team, and I’m quite curious about what that contract will look like. Best guess? 2-4M, 1 year. It might be a while though. His play really has been poor, so you’d be rolling the dice on recapturing the magic from the Harbaugh era, before there was a lot of film on him and defenses adjusted.

The ultimate moral of the story is that if you want to find a quarterback, free agency is a tough place to look. Some of those draft day trades look a bit better in this light.






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