San Francisco 49ers

Jet sweep: If Kaepernick leaves, where would he land?

Colin Kaepernick’s career is reaching a crossroads. If he’s not with the 49ers next year, where might he end up?
Colin Kaepernick’s career is reaching a crossroads. If he’s not with the 49ers next year, where might he end up? The Bee

If Colin Kaepernick wants out of San Francisco, will the 49ers be able to trade him? They'll likely find out later this month at the scouting combine, a gathering of teams and player agents and the spot where big deals typically get hammered out.

That's where the 49ers and Chiefs agreed on a deal three years ago, one that sent Smith to Kansas City in exchange for two second-round draft picks.

Of course, there are key differences between then and now beginning with the fact that Smith, when he was traded, was at the apex of his career. He had completed an NFL-best 70.2 percent of his throws and had a 104.1 passer rating when he suffered a concussion midway through the 2012 season and was replaced by Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, by contrast, is at the nadir of his career. Both his completion percentage and 78.5 passer rating in 2015 were the lowest since he took over as starter. And he's currently hurt. Since November he's had surgeries on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, his thumb and his knee. None, however, are expected to be long-term issues.

There's also the matter of their respective contracts. Smith went to Kansas City with an $8.5 million contract. Kaepernick is due to earn more than $14 million for the upcoming season. Still, those numbers more similar when you consider that the salary cap in 2013 was $123 million and the projected cap for the upcoming year is a little more than $150 million. There also is a scenario in which the 49ers agree to take on some of the money owed Kaepernick in 2016 to make the transaction more palatable.

So if the 49ers start talking trade this month, with whom would they speak?

* New York Jets. The New York Daily News reported Tuesday that Kaepernick's first choice for a new home is the Jets. They have a head coach, Todd Bowles, who is familiar with Kaepernick when he was the Cardinals' defensive coordinator. Kaepernick was 3-1 against the Cardinals in the two seasons Bowles ran the defense. New York also has the combination of strong rushing offense and very good defense in which Kaepernick has excelled in the past. The Jets, however, are projected to have only $10 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com, the lowest of any team on this list. They also would like to re-sign 2015 starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is a pending free agent. Interest in and from Kaepernick could be used as leverage for a deal with Fitzpatrick.

* Cleveland Browns. New head coach Hue Jackson has been an unabashed Kaepernick admirer in the past and the Browns are expected to part ways with trouble-plagued Johnny Manziel next month. The Browns, however, also have the second pick in the draft and could take a quarterback there. Cap space: $33M.

* Denver Broncos. In case you haven't heard, Sunday's game may be Peyton Manning's last. Denver won't have a shot at any of the top quarterbacks in the draft and the 49ers’ and Broncos’ general managers, Trent Baalke and John Elway, have a close relationship. The teams scrimmaged together this summer and the 49ers sent Vernon Davis to Denver in a trade in November (though that's probably not helping the relationship now). Cap space: $10.9M

* Houston Texans. Anyone who watched the Texans' opening-round playoff game -- four interceptions and a 15.9 passer rating for Brian Hoyer -- realizes this team badly needs a quarterback. The Texans will have the 22nd pick in the draft and have plenty of cap space. Cap space: $27M.

* Philadelphia Eagles. This would have been a more viable destination if Chip Kelly had remained the head coach. Still, the Eagles' starter in 2015, Sam Bradford, will be a free agent next month and the top passer under contract is Mark Sanchez. Cap space: $21M.

Of course, you have to put the 49ers on this list, too.

Two years before he was traded, Smith wanted out of San Francisco as badly as Kaepernick seems to now. But an offensive-minded head coach, Jim Harbaugh, coaxed him back into the organization and helped him resurrect his career.

Could Kelly have the same effect on Kaepernick? So far he's had only one conversation with the 49ers quarterback, who is rehabilitating from his surgeries not in Santa Clara but in Colorado.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments