Just hours after new San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly told reporters that Colin Kaepernick wanted to stay with the team, it looks like the quarterback is seeking a way out of the Bay Area. Kaepernick’s agents have requested a trade from the 49ers, according to multiple reports.
Kaepernick’s future in San Francisco has been in question for the last few months. He was one of the NFL’s worst starting quarterbacks in the 2015 season with a 78.5 passer rating, and he was permanently benched after the team’s Week 8 loss to the St. Louis Rams. Kaepernick had season-ending shoulder surgery, in addition to offseason procedures on his knee and thumb, and he chose to be operated on by doctors that weren't involved with the 49ers.
If the 49ers try to trade Kaepernick, they likely won’t get much in return. His value has taken a severe hit in the last two years, which have seen him go 10-14 as a starter and struggle throwing the ball with much accuracy. His completion percentage ranked 30th last season, and he had just one 300-yard passing game in the previous year.
Kaepernick’s 2016 salary of $11.9 million becomes guaranteed if he's on San Francisco's roster on April 1, and his contract will make him very difficult to move. Coming off two poor seasons, the quarterback’s salary cap hit is nearly $16 million. Kaepernick has five years remaining on a six-year, $114 million deal, though none of the money is fully guaranteed.
As multiple execs told me during the fall, Kap's contract (combined with his play) is not tradeable. Doubt anything has changed
— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) February 25, 2016
San Francisco might be forced to release Kaepernick if they can’t find a trading partner, hoping to avoid paying him nearly $12 million in 2016. When Kelly was hired, he wouldn't commit to naming Kaepernick the starter, and the team might not want to pay that much money to a player that could be relegated to the bench and wants to play elsewhere. However, general manager Trent Baalke said on Wednesday that he “absolutely” expects the quarterback to be on the roster next year.
It’s possible that a team could take a chance on Kaepernick in exchange for a late-round draft pick. He would certainly draw some interest as a free agent, having achieved success in the NFL. It was just three years ago that Kaepernick nearly won the Super Bowl, and he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game the next season. The 28-year-old had been considered one of the league’s best young quarterbacks, giving some teams reason to believe that he can still be an above-average starter.
A handful of destinations could make sense as possible landing spots for Kaepernick. The Houston Texans made the playoffs with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, and he isn’t the team’s long-term solution. Peyton Manning has likely played his last game for the defending champion Denver Broncos, and there’s no guarantee that free-agent-to-be Brock Osweiler will return.
On PFT Live, @SI_PeterKing suggested that the Broncos could pursue Colin Kaepernick, if they can't re-sign Brock Osweiler.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 26, 2016
The Los Angeles Rams might have had the worst quarterback situation in the NFL last season, and the team likely wants to make an upgrade from Nick Foles and Case Keenum with their move to L.A. The Rams, though, might not want to give up anything for Kaepernick, whom they saw throw for just 162 yards on 41 pass attempts in their game against San Francisco on Nov. 1, 2015.
The Cleveland Browns have been looking for a solution at quarterback since they came back into existence in 1999. New head coach Hue Jackson was a big fan of Kaepernick when he entered the league, but Cleveland is expected to select a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Reports in early February stated that the New York Jets were Kaepernick’s preferred destination. Ryan Fitzpatrick might not be the team’s quarterback of the future, but he led them to 10 wins in 2015, and all indications are that he’ll return as the starter in 2016. The Jets reportedly have no interest in trading for Kaepernick.
When the 49ers hired Kelly, it appeared to be the perfect fit for Kaepernick and his skill set. The coach has been most successful when he’s had a mobile quarterback, and Kaepernick can use his legs better than most quarterbacks in the league.
Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles went 7-9 last season with Sam Bradford rushing for just 39 yards as the starting quarterback.