Mark Sanchez is heading to Denver. Robert Griffin III is meeting with the New York Jets. Johnny Manziel is leaving Cleveland.
NFL quarterbacks were in motion Friday, but not Colin Kaepernick. The one-time 49ers starter remains in limbo, although the strong possibility of a trade remains – the Broncos and Browns still are the top suitors.
The 49ers are believed to have reached an understanding with the Browns in which they would receive Cleveland’s third-round draft pick, No. 65 overall, in exchange for Kaepernick.
Cleveland, however, wants Kaepernick to restructure his contract before that occurs. The NFL Network reported Friday that the Browns and Kaepernick’s agents were not yet close enough in contract talks for the quarterback’s side to “green light” a deal.
The 49ers also are waiting to see whether the Broncos, or any other team, will make them a better offer. Denver’s second-round pick is two spots better than Cleveland’s third-round selection. Both sides could improve or augment their offers in other ways, such as with later-round picks in either 2016 or 2017 or by swapping picks with the 49ers in a specific round.
Kaepernick’s representatives requested a trade last month and have notified potential suitors, including the Jets, that the quarterback is willing to restructure and reduce his contract, one through which Kaepernick would earn $11.9 million if he is on the roster April 1. Finding the right number with the Browns, at least, is the challenge right now.
As expected, the Browns on Friday released the troubled Manziel, who is the subject of a grand jury investigation in Texas after an alleged altercation with his former girlfriend.
The Broncos, on the other hand, added a quarterback. They traded a seventh-round draft pick in 2017 to the Eagles for Sanchez, who started two games last year for Philadelphia. However, Denver still only has two quarterbacks on its roster – and just one who has thrown a regular-season NFL pass – so Sanchez’s arrival does not remove them from the Kaepernick equation.
The Jets are meeting with one-time Washington starter Griffin. He was released Monday and has received little interest this week. New York would like to retain its 2015 starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he has not accepted the Jets’ offer and remains a free agent. Griffin also could become a possibility for San Francisco if Kaepernick departs.
Many see Fitzpatrick and Kaepernick as the only viable starting quarterbacks currently available. Some teams are interested in them, some seem to be using one to leverage a better deal with the other.
The 49ers, meanwhile, are sticking to their stance that they don’t necessarily have to trade Kaepernick.
They note that his contract, while the highest on the team, is not nearly as large as some that other quarterbacks have signed recently, and that with more than $55 million salary-cap space they easily could accommodate him this season.
They also insist new coach Chip Kelly is eager to work with Kaepernick, who could be a nice fit in his up-tempo attack.
Kaepernick, however, has made it clear he’d rather be elsewhere. And if the 49ers were to wait too long to try to move him – say, after the April 28-30 draft – the trade offers they are receiving now may not be nearly as good.