Colin Kaepernick’s career currently is at a standstill. Or perhaps a better way to put it is that the quarterback’s situation is snarled. After conversations with a number of people involved in the matter, here’s an attempt to unravel the knot and explain where things stand.
Cleveland is willing to send the 49ers a third-round pick, which this year is the second pick in that round, No. 65 overall. If that proposal had been made a week ago, it’s entirely possible a Kaepernick-to-Cleveland deal would have been completed then.
After all, Kaepernick likes new Browns coach Hue Jackson. He is pushing his team to acquire Kaepernick, who would like to play for Jackson.
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But somehow the 3-13 Browns managed to get worse since the start of free agency on Wednesday. They lost starting center Alex Mack, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
Kaepernick is willing to restructure his contract and take less money to get out of San Francisco. But after getting sacked 80 times in the last 1 1/2 seasons and having three surgeries since December, he’s wary of taking a lower-money deal on a bad team that is losing talent and that may also use its first-round pick, No. 2 overall, on a quarterback.
If the Broncos came to Kaepernick with the same deal the Browns offered for the quarterback, he’d likely sign it in a second. The Super Bowl champions obviously are a better, more stable team and, given that they are picking last in the draft, there’s a lesser chance that Kaepernick would be supplanted in the starting role in coming years by a draft pick the general manager is invested in.
The hitch here is Denver’s trade offer, which could be its third-round pick and which is 29 spots lower – worse – than what the Browns are offering. It’s logical that the 49ers want Denver’s second-round pick, which is two spots better than the Browns’ third-round pick.
The Broncos acquired veteran Mark Sanchez in a trade on Friday, but that shouldn’t dull their desire to add Kaepernick.
The Broncos reportedly have shown interest in the same free-agent quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets have had trouble re-signing. Once Fitzpatrick is off the table, Kaepernick’s value presumably rises.
That applies to the Broncos as well as the Jets, who have shown some interest in Kaepernick, but not to the degree of Denver and Cleveland. If Fitzpatrick were to go to Denver, New York might enter the Kaepernick conversation more strongly.
Some league observers, however, question whether the Broncos truly are interested in Fitzpatrick. If they are, they ask, why haven’t they made him an offer?
Back to the Bay?
The 49ers continue to insist they are perfectly willing to hold onto Kaepernick beyond the April 1 date on which they will owe him $11.9 million. After all, they have plenty of salary cap space as well as a head coach, Chip Kelly, who has said he’s eager to start working with Kaepernick this offseason.
The 49ers are right. They don’t have to trade Kaepernick. They control his contractual rights.
But they don’t have full control. Kaepernick could refuse to report for the offseason program, which begins next month. And though he’s been silent since the end of the 2015 season, he could make things uncomfortable for a team during an offeason in which the 49ers are trying to convince skeptical fans that they are getting back on track.
Kelly didn’t seem to have any patience in Philadelphia for players who weren’t fully committed to what he was doing there. How long would he tolerate a standoff with a starting quarterback candidate who is the highest-paid player on the team?