Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who for the second consecutive year faces a murky offseason with the 49ers, met coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch at team headquarters Wednesday for what Lynch said was “really a positive discussion” during a KNBR radio interview.
Kaepernick is the only quarterback under contract with the 49ers for the 2017 season. However, he’s due to earn a little less than $15 million in base salary and the team can cut him with little penalty. Likewise, Kaepernick can get out of the deal as early as next week and enter free agency a week after that.
Kaepernick has been living with his girlfriend, radio personality Nessa Diab, in his New York apartment and recently sold his San Jose home. He parted with his longtime agents this month and has not hired a replacement. Kaepernick was on his way back to New York on Wednesday afternoon.
Lynch declined to divulge any specifics about the conversation, saying only the participants “left excited.” He said the team’s evaluation of Kaepernick is “still very much fluid.”
“We’ve only been on the job a couple weeks,” Lynch said. “I can tell you, we both very much enjoyed being around Colin, and he seems like he’s in a real good place.”
Kaepernick struggled to get back to his playing weight last year following surgeries to his shoulder, knee and thumb. He is believed to be back to his full weight now.
Lynch, Shanahan and Kaepernick had conversed over the phone and through text messages in recent weeks, and Lynch already was familiar with the quarterback after meeting him several times in Lynch’s former job as a television broadcaster.
Kaepernick has said he does not intend to opt out of his contract and is open to playing with the 49ers this season. The 49ers, however, could force his hand by telling him they plan to release him instead of pay his 2017 contract. That, in turn, almost would compel him to enter free agency.
In one scenario at play, the 49ers release him and re-sign him to a more modest deal. After all, they could be his best chance to win a starting job.
Last year, Kaepernick tried to engineer a trade but found only two serious suitors, the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos. He decided against Cleveland after seeing the Browns let go of some of their better free agents, and he did not like the pay cut the Broncos wanted him to take. It’s not known whether those teams will be options for him this offseason.
Kaepernick took over the 49ers’ starting job from Blaine Gabbert in 2016 after five weeks. He finished with 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions and a 90.7 passer rating, his highest mark since 2013.
The three other quarterbacks on San Francisco’s 2016 roster – Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis – will be unrestricted free agents next month. So will a couple of quarterbacks Shanahan has worked with, the Chicago Bears’ Brian Hoyer and the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Schaub.
The 49ers also have been linked to Washington Redskins free agent Kirk Cousins, who could get the franchise tag from his team, and the New England Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo, for whom they would have to trade.
San Francisco has the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The top three quarterbacks are believed to be Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, although one or more could fall into the second round.