Any team hoping the 49ers would cut quarterback Colin Kaepernick and make him a free agent didn’t see its wish come true.
The 1 p.m. deadline by which the 49ers might have released Kaepernick came and went Thursday, reinforcing what the team has worked to communicate in recent weeks: If you want the quarterback, you’ll have to give us something in return.
One of the issues is the team that seems most interested, the Denver Broncos, thinks the quarterback is worth a fourth-round draft pick. The 49ers want a higher selection – plus the Broncos don’t have a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft. They have picks at the end of the second (No. 63 overall) and third (No. 94 overall) rounds.
A second obstacle is Kaepernick’s salary. Denver has the smallest amount of salary-cap space in the league, $1.6 million, according to the National Football League Players Association.
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They could clear space by cutting former starting left tackle Ryan Clady, but that wouldn’t be enough to take on Kaepernick’s contract. He is due to make $14.3 million in 2016, including an $11.9 million base now guaranteed because he will be on the 49ers’ roster Friday. The only way Kaepernick won’t earn that $11.9 million is if he agrees to renegotiate his salary with another team.
Bleacher Report reported Thursday that the Broncos want Kaepernick to take a deal worth $7 million in 2016, which Kaepernick’s camp has rejected.
The Jets have made a similar offer to their 2015 starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, which he also has declined to take, and the Broncos have shown interest in Fitzpatrick, too. Many league observers think the team that signs Fitzpatrick will force the other to move more aggressively to sign Kaepernick.
The next chapter in the Kaepernick saga is the 49ers’ offseason program, which begins Monday. Kaepernick will earn $400,000 in bonuses if he attends most of those sessions, which he is expected to do.
After that, the April 28 draft is the next event that could trigger a trade.
Top 10 highest 49ers salaries
How Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 base salary ranks among his teammates (in millions):
Source: NFL Players Association