The 49ers and Colin Kaepernick are discussing a restructured deal that would allow the quarterback to get on the field this season without a hefty injury guarantee looming over the franchise, multiple sources said this week. The NFL Network reported Friday the two sides were “closing in” on the deal, although it has not been signed or even reviewed yet by Kaepernick’s agents.
As it stands, a serious injury for Kaepernick would trigger a $14.5 million guarantee for next season, which might make the 49ers hesitant to make him their full-time starter. A new deal would decrease that injury risk and allow Kaepernick, who asked for a trade in February, to exit the 49ers after this season.
Kaepernick has served as Blaine Gabbert’s backup through the first five games. Coach Chip Kelly has said Kaepernick will not overtake Gabbert for the starting job until Kaepernick is closer to his 2013 form. Surgeries on his left shoulder, left knee and right thumb prevented him from working out until June, and Kaepernick is still regaining the weight he lost when he was unable to train.
A source said the quarterback is close to his ideal, 225-pound weight but still has some pounds to gain. The source would not go on the record because he lacks authority to speak on the matter.
Kelly also has indicated that Gabbert has looked better than Kaepernick in practice this season. Gabbert has received about three-quarters of the first-team offensive snaps in those sessions; Kaepernick has gotten the remainder. Christian Ponder, the team’s No. 3 quarterback, has worked only with the scout-team offense through the first five weeks.
The money also has been a serious issue for team officials, who have sought a revised deal since the offseason. Kelly said Kaepernick’s current contract has not been a factor in his mind nor has he received any direction from general manager Trent Baalke on the matter.
“I mean I played him in the first game,” Kelly said. “So that kind of answers that question,” Kelly said.
Kaepernick appeared at the end of the team’s 28-0 win over Los Angeles in Week 1, handing the ball off on the three snaps he played.
A restructured deal would point to Kaepernick getting onto the field soon. Kelly did not commit to Gabbert for the team’s next game at Buffalo on Oct. 16, though he noted a number of positions could be in flux after the team lost four straight games. He said he and his staff would take the next few days to sort through those issues. The 49ers players won’t be back until Tuesday.
“I don’t have any answers for anybody,” he said. “So I don’t know who’s going to start against Buffalo. Our entire offense didn’t play well. So we need to get something straightened out offensively.”
Kaepernick’s current contract, signed in 2014, makes him a 49er through the 2020 season, though the team could cut ties with him – barring injury – before April 1 of every year with little penalty.
After he inked the deal, Kaepernick was criticized for signing a team-friendly contract. But it’s been the 49ers who have been eager to restructure the deal since the offseason. A source said the team tried to get Kaepernick to sign the revised contract before Thursday’s game but he refused.
Details of a possible new deal were not available because it has not yet been finalized. Still, sources indicated that a major component is that it would allow both sides to get out of the contract more easily at the end of the current season. That would allow Kaepernick to test his worth in free agency.
Kaepernick asked for a trade in February, and the 49ers and Denver Broncos nearly agreed to an exchange. Kaepernick, however, balked at the pay cut the Broncos wanted him to take and returned to the 49ers. He has earned a $125,000 roster bonus for each of the five games this season.