49ers

Why Colin Kaepernick isn't playing in new XFL, according to Oliver Luck

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AP

Why Colin Kaepernick isn't playing in new XFL, according to Oliver Luck

The game looks familiar, even if the players aren't.

The 49ers' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV marked the conclusion of the NFL season, but not football altogether. Within the week, the XFL returned from a two-decade absence, as Saturday marked the beginning of the league's reincarnation.

The XFL of 2020 is not what it was back in 2001. Player nicknames no longer appear on jersey nameplates, and there is more of a focus on the actual game itself. Still, there are many unique elements that serve to differentiate the XFL from the NFL, and from a financial perspective, the league believes it's now much more viable than it was back in 2001, when it folded after just a single season. XFL commissioner Oliver -- and father of former Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew -- Luck offered three explanations as to why he feels that way when speaking with NPR's Michel Martin on Saturday, including better funding, exposure and players.

The XFL approached former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick about joining and starring in the new league, but according to Luck, Kaepernick's salary demands ruled out that possibility.

"We gave it some thought," Luck told Martin. "We have some pretty significant salary restrictions, you know. We're a start-up league, so we want to make sure that we can be fiscally responsible and fiscally prudent. And the, you know, salary requirements that some folks, you know, shared with us were in our case exorbitant, so we, you know, couldn't go down that path."

"We spoke with his representative," Luck continued, "and the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of our range."

When asked if the XFL would reconsider its stance on Kaepernick if he lowered his salary demands, Luck was noncommittal.

"I don't know," Luck said. "That was well over a year ago, so I don't know what kind of shape, you know, Colin is in. And, you know, we haven't followed that because obviously, again, we want the best players who are interested in playing in our league. That's, you know, pretty much a requisite for our job."

[RELATED: How Kap, coach moves defined 49ers' up-and-down decade]

While no one could blame the XFL for trying to be fiscally responsible, Luck's last comment seemed unrelated to any financial hurdles associated with bringing Kaepernick into the fold. The XFL requires all of its players to stand for the national anthem, and Luck sure doesn't sound like he supports Kaepernick's chosen methods of protest in the past.

"Players have numerous opportunities to express themselves with all the platforms that exist today," Luck said. "So, you know, standing for the national anthem we believe is a part of their responsibility as players in our league. But we think it's important to have that -- you know, that requirement for our players."

When pressed as to why Luck feels it's important to have that requirement, he doubled down on generalizations.

"We think it's important. We think it's part of what we as a league should do."

If the XFL can't afford Kaepernick, then his absence from the league is simply the result of financial prudence. But if Kaepernick's social reputation is figuring into it and causing the XFL to avoid such a partnership, it sure seems like a gigantic missed opportunity. If anything, one would think the XFL should be leaning into all of the different ways it could distinguish itself from its much larger, much more established competitor.

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

Much like 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz's top receiving threat on the Philadelphia Eagles happens to be a tight end. But while the former two got great news Thursday with the announcement of George Kittle's and Travis Kelce's respective contract extensions, the latter's future outlook became even darker than it was before.

At this point, it's very difficult to see how Wentz will have Zach Ertz to throw to beyond this coming season. And even if he does, that likely means the Eagles won't be competitive to begin with.

Kittle and Kelce unquestionably are the two premier tight ends in the league -- in that order -- and they're now paid accordingly with the two highest annual salaries ever at the position. There's a shortlist of players in discussion for the next-best tight end in the NFL, and Ertz is on it.

Like Kittle and Kelce prior to signing their extensions, Ertz is under contract beyond the upcoming season. And like Kittle and Kelce rightfully were, he reportedly is seeking a raise commensurate with his production.

However, that's unlikely to come from Philadelphia. The Eagles already were going to be in salary-cap hell next season, and that was before Kittle and Kelce obliterated the previous tight end market.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Eagles currently are projected to have over $262 million in cap liabilities for next season. Last month, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed that the 2021 salary cap wouldn't drop any lower than $175 million due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But regardless of whether the 2021 cap decreases or remains flat at $198 million, Philadelphia is going to have to cut costs to a significant degree.

Though Ertz carries a $12.4 million cap hit in 2021 in the final season of his current contract, he already seemed to be one of the most likely candidates to be cut by the Eagles, as doing so would create an additional $4.7 million in cap space. Not to mention, they already have a younger, cheaper and arguably better tight end in Dallas Goedert who makes Ertz somewhat redundant.

Assuming the Eagles actually do sign Ertz to an extension, though, that would in all likelihood increase their 2021 cap liabilities and remove their ability to create immediate cap space by cutting him. They're already going to have to part ways with some of the best players on their roster, and signing Ertz to the kind of deal he is looking for would further deplete their depth.

[RELATED: Kittle's record 49ers contract still a huge steal]

Now, the Eagles definitely could lower their 2021 cap liabilities with some creative maneuvering. Look no further than the Chiefs, who managed to sign Mahomes, Kelce and star defensive tackle Chris Jones to humongous contract extensions this offseason despite having exactly $171 in total cap space on March 30. That said, Kansas City was nowhere close to the kind of 2021 cap trouble that Philadelphia already finds itself in, and no matter how creative the Eagles get, it's not going to change the reality of the situation.

That reality would appear to be quite dark whether or not they keep Ertz around.

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Perhaps nobody can relate to Tom Brady better than Joe Montana.

That might be as weird for Brady to read as it was seeing Montana play for Kansas City, considering Brady, a San Mateo native, grew up idolizing the Hall of Fame quarterback and rooting for the 49ers. But Brady has supplanted Dan Marino as sports radio callers' alternative to Montana in age-old "Which QB is better?" debates, and arguably has surpassed Montana as the greatest quarterback ever.

Brady, like Montana, will begin the twilight of his career in a uniform other than the one most associated with his journey to greatness. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency after spending two decades with the New England Patriots, and Brady told Montana he didn't think his input was valued enough by the Patriots.

"I think that was one of his beefs up there," Montana recalled to USA Today Sports' Mackenzie Salmon in an interview published Wednesday. "He told me, 'They ask my advice, I tell them and then they don't take it.' So, I think he would like a little bit of input and I think they'll probably let him have that, especially with the success he's had."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Montana's two-season tenure with Kansas City is a blip on the NFL's historical record, but he wasn't a bust. Before Patrick Mahomes led the team to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances during the 2018 and '19 seasons (as well as a win in Super Bowl LIV), Montana was the only QB to lead Kansas City to an AFC Championship Game appearance since the first moon landing. Were it not for a concussion in the '93 conference championship, Montana might've helped Kansas City end its Super Bowl drought a quarter-century before Mahomes did. 

The Buccaneers would almost certainly take that, considering the franchise's anonymity since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Montana thinks trading Foxboro's frigid winters for Tampa will do wonders for Brady's psyche.

"I think he's gonna have fun," Montana said. "He'll be in a better place for him mentally, he'll be happier and if you look at what they did offensively last year, they threw up some crazy numbers. So you add Tom into the mix and the big knucklehead tight end (Rob Gronkowski), and they'll be fun to watch."

[RELATED: Why Kittle's record 49ers contract still is a huge steal]

Brady, 45, is signed for as many years with Tampa Bay as Montana played with Kansas City. He already has two more Super Bowl rings (six) than his idol, and Brady will aim to top Montana once again by doing what he couldn't and winning a title with a second franchise.

If that happens, Brady and Montana might not end up with much left to relate to after all.