At many points in the past year, it was a foregone conclusion Colin Kaepernick would never play for the 49ers again. Then, it was clear that he was done in the Bay Area after 2016.
It would not be a surprise if Kaepernick was the team’s starting quarterback in 2017, sources said. There is still a chance he re-signs with San Francisco jerseys this offseason, and it’s certainly not something to rule out like it once was.
But, as several sources explain, a few things will happen first.
When Kaepernick signed a revised contract that wiped away the final four years of his extension and limited his guaranteed money, it gave him the chance to opt-out after the season.
Kaepernick will, in fact, void his contract before the league year and become a free agent, sources said. This creates a scenario where Kaepernick can test the market, sign a contract that gives him much greater peace of mind, and still end up back with the Niners.
Some factors are at play. First, he’s playing great, becoming the quarterback coach Chip Kelly always imagined in his system (even during his time in Philadelphia). Second, the once-strained relationship between the franchise and the quarterback is in a very good place.
The 49ers stood by him while he took a hard social stance — he appreciated that, and most of the issues that lingered when he nearly was traded to the Broncos have dissipated. Things are good between Kaepernick and the team, and his decision to put his San Jose house on the market this week had nothing to do with football jerseys.
The 49ers are trying to find the best quarterback (or two) for their franchise, and it’s hard to argue Kaepernick hasn’t stated his case.
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The losses have piled up for the 49ers, though opposing coaches have privately noted after each game that they look like a team that is playing well … just without a lot of ready talent. Over the last four games, Kaepernick has played as well as anyone.
Finally back at full strength and weight, Kaepernick threw for 296 yards last week in a close loss to the Dolphins, going 29 of 46 (63%) with three touchdowns and one pick. He also rushed for a whopping 113 yards — reminding observers of old times.
Over the last four games, he’s 86 of 145 for 1,110 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions. Stellar. He’s also rushed for 223 yards over that span.
It sets up a scenario where he’s back in the Bay for 2017, but with a contract he can feel happier about. When he inked his six-year, $126-million extension, it was widely debated. He received far less fully guaranteed money compared to most quarterbacks, and the pay-as-you-go model was one no quarterback wanted to imitate. Perhaps when he tests the market — and there will be suitors — he’ll find a value he can be happier with.
The San Francisco 49ers are the most likely team to trade up for the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, and acquiring a quarterback could be the reason, according to NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks jersey. The analysts put the 49ers at the top of a list of five clubs most likely to convince new Tennessee Titans jerseys general manager Jon Robinson to move out of the draft’s top spot.
“You have a quarterback concern. You wonder, is it Colin Kaepernick? Is it Blaine Gabbert? Can either one of those guys be the guy long-term? If you don’t like those guys, you move up,” Brooks said on NFL Network’s “Path to the Draft”. “You go and get someone else. Is it Jared Goff? Is it Carson Wentz? Whoever you want, when you’re (picking) No. 1.”
Jeremiah noted San Francisco’s flexibility to trade picks later in the draft is high.
“This is a team with a lot of draft picks, as many as anybody in this draft. A lot of ammunition if they so desire to go up and get their guy,” Jeremiah said.
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The 49ers hold 12 picks, four of the compensatory variety, including two fourth-round picks and three fifth-round picks. The club’s first pick is at No. 7 overall. The likelihood that the Tennessee Titans could trade down from the No. 1 pick is 50-50, according to Peter King of the MMQB. A potential trade of Kaepernick to the Denver Broncos jerseys has stalled, according to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, though Jeremiah said he doesn’t believe Kaepernick’s situation would alter the 49ers’ plans if they want a quarterback with the No. 7 pick.
Robinson, for his part, has said trading out of the top pick would require a “king’s ransom” in return.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver endorsed the former Memphis quarterback as the right pick for his former team, and its new coach, in this week’s 2016 NFL Draft. San Francisco holds the No. 7 overall pick in Round 1.
“I think they’re going offense. It’s got to be quarterback. We don’t know the situation with Colin Kaepernick, if he’s going to be around or if he’s going to be leaving. So the big guy, Lynch, out of Memphis, would be an exceptional quarterback,” Rice told NFL Network’s NFL HQ on Monday. “Big guy, strong arm and I think Chip Kelly had a lot of success with Nick Foles (with the Eagles). I think he could take Lynch under his belt and develop him into a very good quarterback.”
NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock said during a media teleconference Friday that the 49ers’ No. 7 overall pick was “a little too rich,” to take Lynch, who is projected to be chosen in the second half of the first round in five of six mock drafts by NFL Media analysts. Rice doesn’t see it that way.
Rice also was asked about North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz jersey, and whether his FCS level of experience would be a disadvantage for him in the NFL. He quickly drew a comparison to another former small-college player who easily overcame the gap in competition: himself.
“I don’t think so. Not at all. I remember the Blue-Gray (college all-star) game, that’s when I got a chance to go up against all the players from the major colleges,” Rice said. “It was time for me to shine and I was the MVP of that game. I don’t think (Wentz is) going to get intimidated by that. I think it’s going to give him an opportunity where he can showcase his talent. I was looking forward to it, and I think I did OK.”
Jared Goff and Wentz are expected to be the first players off the board when the draft begins on Thursday, with the Rams and Eagles holding the top two picks after trading up.
With those trades creating circumstances that could make Lynch the most attractive quarterback available as early as the third pick of the draft, the 49ers are now part of the Thursday night Lynch watch.