Hours after coach Chip Kelly assured reporters that Colin Kaepernick is excited to play for the 49ers this year, the quarterback’s agents requested a trade.
A source confirmed to The Bee on Thursday night that Kaepernick’s agents, Scott Smith and Jason Bernstein, met with 49ers officials in Indianapolis and asked that the team trade the quarterback. The source would not go on record because he does not have authority to speak on the matter.
That story was first reported by NFL Network’s Rand Getlin. The 49ers declined to comment.
Kaepernick was benched after eight games in 2015. Disparaging rumors leaked to national reporters about how he conducted himself in the locker room preceded the move. Kaepernick also has had three surgeries since November – on his shoulder, knee and thumb – all of which were performed by specialists in Vail, Colo., not by team doctors.
Still, both general manager Trent Baalke and Kelly were adamant in recent days that Kaepernick would be part of their offseason roster.
“Absolutely,” Baalke said when asked if Kaepernick would be on the team after April 1, the date his $11.9 million base salary becomes guaranteed. Baalke was part of the group who met with Kaepernick’s representatives Thursday.
Kelly was even more certain, saying Kaepernick sounded “excited” about the team’s offseason program during recent phone calls. He dismissed the notion that Kaepernick was unhappy as a rumor.
“He’s seemed excited every time I’ve talked to him,” Kelly told the team’s beat writers in an hour-long session Thursday. “ … I’ve also learned to not believe everything that’s on the Internet.”
Later he said: “I don’t know what the narrative is, that ‘Is he on the team? Is he not on the team?’ That’s never been a question. I’m excited about working with Colin. … I’ve never thought, ‘I’m going to go to San Francisco, and he’s not going to be there.’ I don’t know why everyone else looks at it that way, either.”
It’s not known yet whether the team will acquiesce or whether Kelly will try to convince Kaepernick that he can get a fresh start with the 49ers.
“Kap’s really good,” he said Thursday. “I mean, he had the ball on the 5-yard line (intending on) taking the team in to win a Super Bowl. You can just look at the tape to see how talented he is. You know, our job is acquiring talent, not getting rid of talent.”
News of the trade request comes three years after the 49ers dealt quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City for two second-round draft picks.
The 49ers are not believed to have had trade discussions. If they do, they likely will target an AFC team, as they did with Smith. The Broncos, Browns, Jets and Texans need a quarterback, and the 49ers and Broncos made a deal – for tight end Vernon Davis – last year.
If Kaepernick is dealt, the 49ers must find competition for Blaine Gabbert, who is signed only through the 2016 season. The top two quarterbacks in the draft are North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and Cal’s Jared Goff. The 49ers pick seventh, and two teams ahead of them – the Browns at No. 2 and the Cowboys at No. 4 – could take quarterbacks.