San Francisco 49ers

Chip Kelly on Kaepernick: ‘He didn’t fall off. He got hurt’

Top landing spots for the career of 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

The Denver Broncos were the first team to express interest in a trade with the 49ers for disgruntled quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Now the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have joined the discussions with San Francisco for a Kaepernick trade. Be
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The Denver Broncos were the first team to express interest in a trade with the 49ers for disgruntled quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Now the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have joined the discussions with San Francisco for a Kaepernick trade. Be

Chip Kelly today said the explanation for Colin Kaepernick's decline in 2016 is an easy one: He was injured.

“It’s not like his skill set diminished," Kelly told Denver's 9 News Tuesday. "I mean he went on injured reserve last year. He only played half the season. He was legitimately injured. He’s in the process of rehabbing right now – he had a shoulder, had a thumb, had a knee. That’s where when people look at where he fell off -- he didn’t fall off. He got hurt."

Kaepernick roared out to a 98.3 passer rating when he took over as starter in 2012. It dropped to 91.6 the next season, 86.4 in 2014 and 78.5 last year, a season in which he was benched after eight games. He suffered the shoulder injury -- a torn left labrum -- in an Oct. 4 loss to the Packers. The thumb tear came Oct. 22 against the Seahawks and the knee injury in the following game against the Rams.

As he said last week to local reporters, Kelly said at the owners meeting Tuesday in Florida that he's spoken regularly to Kaepernick and that the quarterback "knows I'd love to have him."

Kaepernick's agents, however, have been seeking a trade a partner for the 49ers. The Broncos, Browns and Jets emerged as the most interested partners, but the sides never have been close on the parameters of a deal. That's left Kaepernick in limbo.

The next milestone in the saga will be April 1 when $11.9 million of Kaepernick's 2016 salary will become guaranteed. Because he still is rehabilitating from his 2015 injuries, it's unlikely the 49ers could cut him without paying him that sum anyway, and team officials have said consistently that Kaepernick will be on the roster beyond that date.

A team like the Broncos could be waiting to see whether the 49ers release Kaepernick before making a serious offer. The NFL Network reported this month that Denver felt Kaepernick was worth a fourth-round pick. The Broncos, however, don't have a fourth rounder to trade in the upcoming draft.

If no move is made before April 1, the next most realistic time frame for a trade is before or during the draft, which begins April 28.

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

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