As of Thursday, Colin Kaepernick’s $11.9 million dollar payout is officially guaranteed for the 2016 season. While this might seem like a big deal, in actuality it doesn’t mean much of anything.
The 49ers still want to get rid of Kaepernick, but are set on getting at least a 3rd-round draft pick in return. At this point, no team is willing to give that up.
The Denver Broncos remain the 49ers most likely trade partner, but Denver general manager John Elway reportedly isn’t willing to offer San Francisco anything more than a 4th-round pick.
So for now, Kaepernick is staying put.
The 49ers could’ve simply cut Kaepernick before Thursday’s deadline, assuming he’d have agreed to waiving the clause in his contract that bars the team from terminating him if he fails a physical, which seeing as he’s recovering from two surgeries, is a certainty.
But Kaepernick wouldn’t agree to waive that clause unless he already had a deal lined up with another team, and if he had a deal lined up with another team, the 49ers would rather trade him to that team and get something in return.
Hence, the stalemate.
According to Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole, Denver wants to shave around $5 million dollars off his current deal, which would have Kaepernick earning around $7 million per year.
We know Kaepernick wants out. He wouldn’t have put in a trade request in late February if he didn’t. But is getting out of San Francisco really worth $5 million per year?
I’d argue the answer is yes, for the simple fact that another failed season in San Francisco, er, Santa Clara, could tank the 28-year-old’s career permanently.
After three years of regression and a mid-season benching for the similarly mediocre Blaine Gabbert, Kaepernick can’t afford another abject failure.
The 49ers are bereft of talent. Despite an incoming roster that won five games last season, their only notable acquisition so far this off-season is guard Zane Beadles, a player Pro Football Focus rated as one of the worst in the league at his position in 2015.
The other notable addition to the organization is new head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly is certainly an upgrade from last year’s head coach Jim Tomsula, but then again so is a box of Eggo Waffles.
Kelly is a brilliant offensive mind with the potential to be a great NFL coach, but at this point is far from a sure thing. Let’s not forget that he was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles for going 7–9 last year with a team that had far more talent than this 49er squad. Is Kaepernick willing to put to his career in the hands of Kelly and Beadles?
I’d guess not. There also isn’t any guarantee that Kaepernick would win the starting job even if the team decided to keep him around.
Despite an unexceptional spell as the starter last season, Gabbert is currently the front office darling, and at the very least a 50–50 shot to win the job.
Unlike Jim Harbaugh’s tactic of publicly praising then downtrodden quarterback Alex Smith when he took over as head coach in 2011, Kelly has been unwilling to tip his hand with with regards to who the favorite for the position will be, giving even more credence to the idea that the front office is looking to move Kaepernick as soon as possible.
It’s not just that Kaepernick would be leaving a situation in which he failed so miserably last year. He’d be joining an immensely talented Bronco team, and assuming he can beat out Mark Sanchez in camp, would be the odds on starter.
The last time Kaepernick was the starting quarterback on a team with that much talent, he took them to the Super Bowl, and was 5 yards away from winning it (sorry everybody).
There’s also Kaepernick’s happiness to consider.
He’s been the Niners scapegoat de-jour for the team’s failings ever since it became clear that the 2015 season was shot, which only took about five weeks.
The smear campaign included leaked stories about his loner tendencies in the locker room, his shortcomings as a leader and poor film study habits to name a few.
Not to mention the alienating of players, with guys like Patrick Willis retiring when it seemed all too soon, oh, and a 25-year-old pro bowl right tackle named Anthony Davis. Who hasn’t even joined the team yet, and already seems tired of dealing with Baalke.
There is little reason to suggest that Kaepernick would feel anything but remorse toward the organization at this point, and one would imagine that things are going to be somewhat awkward every time he steps foot in the building from now on.
It’s hard to imagine any reason that Kaepernick would want to stay in San Francisco even if the starting job was guaranteed.
It’s true that he’d be giving up $5 million in the short term if he agrees to sign with Denver, but if Kaepernick has a repeat of last year’s debacle, the $11.9 he makes this year might be the last paycheck he ever receives as a starting quarterback.