Proof that Colin Kaepernick’s presence on the 49ers’ roster now doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be there later: The quarterback has met with Broncos general manager John Elway at least twice in the past three weeks.
The most recent meeting, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, occurred Thursday in the Denver area. Kaepernick is rehabilitating from three surgeries in Vail, Colo., which is less than a two-hour drive from the Broncos’ headquarters.
On Thursday, the $11.9 million base salary of Kaepernick’s 2016 contract effectively became guaranteed. However, the 49ers would not be on the hook for that sum if they trade the quarterback.
The Broncos have been his most serious suitor.
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They lost the two quarterbacks who started for them in 2015, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, after the season. As it stands, they have Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian on the roster, but neither is considered a long-term option as a starter.
The 49ers have maintained that they want Kaepernick on the roster in 2016, and they have suggested that all trade talks to this point have been fueled by Kaepernick’s agents.
However, Elway could not have met with Kaepernick without permission from the 49ers.
One of roadblocks for a trade is that the Broncos have deemed Kaepernick worthy of a fourth-round draft pick. The 49ers want a higher selection – plus the Broncos don’t have a trade-able 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 bigger obstacle is Kaepernick’s salary. Denver has the smallest amount of salary-cap space in the league, $1.6 million, according to the NFL Players Association.
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 a total of $14.3 million in 2016.
A league source said Saturday that the Broncos and 49ers are getting closer on the parameters of a trade but that everything is on hold until the Broncos and Kaepernick’s representatives can work out an amended contract.
Elway also is likely interested in how Kaepernick is recovering from surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee. The shoulder, a torn labrum, is the most serious and it will be another month or so before he is fully cleared by doctors.
Kaepernick had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in January to clear out “floating bodies” from the joint. It also should be full-go in about a month. The final procedure was to repair a tear in his thumb ligament; that injury should be fully healed shortly.
The Broncos have a good relationship with The Steadman Clinic where Kaepernick’s surgeries took place.
The 49ers’ voluntary offseason program begins Monday. If Kaepernick attends 90 percent of the sessions, he will earn another $400,000 this season, but it has not been determined whether he will attend.