Bengals have eye on Kaepernick's extension

CINCINNATI -- When Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown said Tuesday that some parts of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's contract extension was intriguing to him and his front office, he sent a message worth paying attention to.

"There's always something that cuts for the team or cuts for the player," Brown said. "In Kaepernick's case, there's some things we like."

Like Kaepernick, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been the subject of contract extension talks this offseason. As the 35th overall (Dalton) and 36th overall (Kaepernick) picks in the 2011 draft, the two have been linked ever since they got in the league. Both were targeted by the Bengals ahead of the 2011 draft, causing some fans to wonder what might have been for the Bengals had they picked Kaepernick instead of Dalton.

It's not much of a surprise that Brown likes Kaepernick's contract considering its tiered, play-for-pay structure benefits his franchise. All owners and team presidents ought to have been intrigued by such a deal. San Francisco reserves the right to release Kaepernick after each season if his performance isn't up to par. He also likely won't see the full amount of his six-year deal.

In order to see the full amount of his contract, Kaepernick would need to play nearly like a Hall of Famer over the next seven seasons. It will be difficult for him to sustain that level, offering one reason many think the deal greatly favors the team. On the flip side, it could be argued that the deal was good for Kaepernick because he has already gathered his fair share of accolades, and shouldn't have too much trouble earning his full annual salary.

Based on his track record of success, Kaepernick has to feel good about his chances of seeing a significant chunk of money from the contract that is scheduled to pay him about $19 million each season through 2020.

Don't be surprised if you see something similar come down the pike for Dalton when he finally signs.

"Kaepernick's a good player. He's been successful," Brown said. "We tend to think our deal [with Dalton] should be something in that rang, not way beyond it."

"Way beyond it" would put Dalton in a performance-based contract that's in the territory of $20 million a year, with an average cap value that's dramatically closer to what the elite passers in the league are making. Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are the only quarterbacks making more than $20 million annually. They also have three Super Bowl rings between them, and all four have been to conference championship games.

The Bengals haven't been out of the first round of the playoffs since 1991. As you well know, Dalton has taken them to that game each of the three seasons he's been in Cincinnati, but his six postseason interceptions have helped push the Bengals to each early exit.

Still, his lack of playoff success notwithstanding, Dalton, who is set to make nearly $1.7 million this year, has been just solid enough in the regular season. He's helped the Bengals -- a franchise that not so long ago saw a 14-season stretch in which it couldn't win more than eight games -- get 30 wins in his brief career, and has been a key figure behind their overall dramatic turnaround. Brown was quick to mention that Tuesday.

"I like him on the field," Brown said. "He's Steady Eddy. He competes. He doesn't do stupid things. We might not outshine everybody. We are the turtle in the race, if you will, but don't count us out. We are going to keep on chugging. That's what he does for us. He keeps us focused. He makes us a winning team. I don't discount that. I hold that in high regard."

Make no mistake, Brown holds something else in high regard, too: winning in the playoffs.

"[Dalton] knows and we know -- everybody knows -- we didn't win in the playoffs. We have to get over that hump," Brown said. "That is going to be difficult but we are counting on him to get us to that point. We'll see."

We'll also see when the Bengals move on extending Dalton. While the sides have been talking more of late, and are trying to get closer to an agreement before the season begins, Brown said he had no deadline for when a deal needed to get done.

"These negotiating things take their course," Brown said. "This one has been going on for some while. We have had numerous discussions and I think it will -- like most of these matters -- find an ending soon enough. But I am not going to stand here and predict exactly when that is going to be. I don't really know."

Brown added he was content letting Dalton playing the season out and hoping he can get a better deal next offseason or later.

"He will have to make a choice, we will have to make a choice," Brown said. "One of the options is he plays this year. One of the options is that we franchise [tag] him for the following year. So, you can count on one thing: he's going to be the quarterback here for the immediate future."

If the Bengals franchise Dalton next year, he could be looking at upward of $16 million for 2015. This year's franchise tag for quarterbacks was $16.2 million. That figure is expected to increase next offseason.

Regardless of when Dalton's deal comes, keep Kaepernick's contract in mind.