Don't rip Colin Kaepernick for not taking $4.9 million pay cut

Colin KaepernickDenny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

Money. It's at the top of the list for NFL players. Free agency, contract negotiations, status in the locker room. You play for the cash, for the security that comes with guaranteed loot in your pocket.

Give it back to management? To the ownership players refuse to trust? Come on, man. Get real.

I'm shocked that's even an perceived option for Colin Kaepernick in this mini-saga being created between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos in hopes of pulling off a trade for the young quarterback. The deal is being held up because the quarterback won't voluntarily give away millions? I don't blame him. That's not change you find in the couch.

It's one thing for Peyton Manning to take a pay cut going into last season after stockpiling over $200 million in his career. I can understand that ... sort of. But Kaepernick, who spent three seasons playing on a cheap rookie deal, isn't in that same stratosphere. Hand over $4.9 million? Nah. That's about 41 percent of his $11.9 million salary for this upcoming season -- the same salary that was just guaranteed on April 1. 

No one does that, right? I'm talking about pro ball players -- and the guy who works at IBM or teaches high school English. Would you take a 41 percent pay cut to go work somewhere else? I wouldn't. A better situation? Not for that price. Forget that talk about playing for rings and wins. That doesn't apply here when discussing this type of cash.

Maybe playing in Denver is the right move for Kaepernick from a pure football perspective. He can run the boot scheme all day in Gary Kubiak's offense, align in the pistol, add in some zone-read and get the ball out to some legit weapons at wide receiver. And he could do all of that while leaning on a championship-level defense, the same defense that just tore up the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl stage.

That sounds pretty nice. And it could be the change Kaepernick needs to reboot his career.

But is it  really a better play for Kaepernick than staying in San Francisco and working under Chip Kelly? Kelly's scheme could maximize Kaepernick's talent at the position if the quarterback takes the necessary developmental steps to advance his overall game. It might work. And you can bet Kelly will make some changes to his coaching style and the program he runs after being fired by the Eagles.

Really, I can see the positives of both clubs for Kaepernick. And I also can understand if the quarterback wants out of San Francisco. Stuff happens in this league. But given how hard it is to make big money in the NFL, and the price these guys have to pay, is it worth giving some of that cash back?

That's what I can't wrap my mind around. I just can't. This is already a brutal game. The beating put on a player's body, the constant talk and fear of concussions, the shelf life during an actual NFL career ... I mean, players are cut all of the time. Four- and five-year deals are really two-year contracts and rookies are drafted every spring to replace weathered, experienced vets. It's an endless cycle where you just try to survive before the league pushes you out the back door.

Current players and the guys from my generation all agree. You are independent contractor in the pros, a gun for hire. Go get yours. It doesn't sound right, and fans might not like to hear it, but that money is hard to get.

Give back $4.9 million? Not in a million years.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Matt Bowen played seven seasons as a defensive back in the NFL.

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