Trent Baalke’s damage control is much too late

It’s tough to find a clear landing spot for Colin Kaepernick, and it truly looks as though he could remain with the 49ers.

Speaking to members of the Bay Area media on Wednesday, general manager Trent Baalke reiterated his stance that he and head coach Chip Kelly have always intended to keep QB Colin Kaepernick on the roster.

Unless you count that time they didn’t.

When asked about the disenfranchised former future of the franchise, Baalke had this to say:

“Nothing’s changed We said at the combine our intentions were to have him on this roster. He’s still on this roster. Everyone was speculating that he was gone, for sure.We said then (in February) he’d be on this roster as of April 1. It’s (April 20), and he’s still here.”

But what about when Kaepernick’s agents were shopping him around to the Broncos, Browns or even the Jets? What about the reports that the only thing holding up a trade between the former Super Bowl contenders and the current Super Bowl champions was Kaepernick’s unwillingness to accept a large pay cut.

Wednesday’s comments are the right things to say for the 49ers, who now look to move forward with Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert as their quarterbacks for the 2016 season. But are these words of sincerity, or strictly necessity?

Baalke’s sentiment that the team has always intended to keep Kaepernick is nothing new. He said as much at the time of Chip Kelly’s hiring. And he echoed his comments again later at the combine.

But his words were as transparent as the 49ers offense last season — they fooled no one.

It was about leverage then. The ability to try to hike up the asking price for Kaepernick to the quarterback-starved teams in the NFL ahead of this month’s event. But recent blockbuster trades have derailed a situation that once saw the 49ers in the driver’s seat heading into the draft.

And they were done by the soon-to-be-rivals in the south, and the new head coach’s ex-team. If there’s one thing the 49ers are not short on, it’s dramatic storylines.

With the Rams moving to the No. 1 overall spot, and Philadelphia orchestrating a trade with the Cleveland Browns to secure the No. 2 spot, it seems as if the 49ers won’t be able to get one of the two quarterback darlings in this year’s draft.

Which means, whether the team and Kaepernick like it or not, they’re going to be stuck together for at least the foreseeable future. Or maybe not.

While the inability to replace Kaepernick with either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz is seemingly off the table, Baalke still would not rule out the chance that the sixth-year veteran could potentially wear something other than red and gold this year, saying

“You never say never in this business. That gets you in trouble. For me to say, ‘Never,’ I’m not going to do that. I wouldn’t do that with any player on our roster. Every day as you see leading up to this draft, things change daily. Heck, they change by the minute right now within rosters. I cannot predict the future.”

So to recap today’s Kaepernick story, the 49ers have always intended to keep him on their roster-except when they didn’t. And they also full intend to keep him on their roster-unless they don’t.

Baalke is right in one regard — nothing has changed. San Francisco still has no clear answer at the quarterback position, leaving a team with a divisive chemistry-both on and off the field — that is sure to be rife with “leaks” of internal strife.

It’s like 2015 all over again.


Shawn Whelchel is SFBay’s San Francisco 49ers beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShawnWhelchel on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of 49ers football.