QB salaries and championship windows

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
4:41
PM ET
ESPN's Chris Mortensen has driven another nail into the Darrelle Revis-to-San Francisco coffin we constructed board by board by board by board.

Jones
Kaepernick
Wilson
Let's turn our attention to a subject of greater import: the expanded windows San Francisco and Seattle will enjoy before their talented young quarterbacks demand much greater shares of their salary-cap resources.

Joe Flacco's new contract with the Baltimore Ravens is the impetus for this item. Forget the line about Flacco being the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. We can't know how much of the $120.6 million over six years he'll actually earn. We do know the deal will count more than $14.5 million against the 2014 and 2015 caps before ballooning enough the following season to invite a renegotiation. Having that much cap room invested in one player puts greater pressure on teams to draft low-cost starters.

This is where the 49ers and Seahawks are working the system to their favor at quarterback.

Rules prevent rookies from renegotiating their contracts until after their third season. As a result, the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick and the Seahawks with Russell Wilson enjoy the best possible situation: outstanding quarterback play at low cost.

Kaepernick, currently signed through 2014, cannot cash in on his success until after the 2013 season at the earliest. Wilson, signed through 2015, cannot renegotiate until after the 2014 season. Their contracts are counting roughly $2.1 million combined against their teams' salary-cap allotments for 2013. That is less than 1 percent. The figure could exceed 10 percent for Flacco in Baltimore over the 2014 and 2015 seasons even if the cap reaches $130 million per team.

The 49ers are relatively tight against the cap anyway, but with quarterback Alex Smith heading to Kansas City by trade, the team will gain flexibility. The Seahawks have enough room under their cap to carry inflated numbers for players such as Zach Miller, Sidney Rice and Matt Flynn. Those three players combine to count nearly $28 million against the cap in 2013. That could be tougher to justify if Wilson were counting $15 million as well.

If all goes to plan, there will come a time when San Francisco and Seattle happily pay their rising young quarterbacks market value. They'll smile for the cameras and celebrate the occasion even though their championship windows might close a little as the ink dries. That was the risk for the Ravens when they re-signed Flacco, but that is OK. They won a championship first. Can the 49ers and/or Seahawks do the same?

Related: Agent Jack Bechta examines the tradeoffs associated with paying quarterbacks.

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