The moment Colin Kaepernick was benched by the San Francisco 49ers in favor of Blaine Gabbert, it was over for the former starting quarterback at the team, and now the only question remaining is whether or not he’ll be traded.
Kaepernick has sensed that things were going in this direction, and has asked to have surgery on his non-throwing arm, something he’s been holding off for a while. The 49ers didn’t really fight him on that, placing him on the IR which means his season is over, while Dylan Thompson, the former South Carolina quarterback, has been bumped up to be Gabbert’s backup in the very difficult away game in Seattle against the Seahawks.
Kaepernick did play for a couple of snaps in the win over the Atlanta Falcons, as Gabbert was being checked on the sidelines after taking a hard hit. But Kaepernick didn’t do anything special besides a deep incompletion and was soon back on the bench. The 49ers are erasing every morsel of memory of the Jim Harbaugh era on the team, and it seems Kaepernick, despite his contract and what he’s done with the team in the very recent past, is the next one to be on his way out.
While he is due to make $14.3 million in 2016 ($11.9 million in base salary, plus bonuses), $16.9 million in 2017, $17.4 million in 2018 and $19.2 million in 2019, per ESPN Stats & Information, the guarantees do not vest until April 1 of each calendar year. This means the 49ers will simply cut him if no trade partner is found, and Kaepernick’s stock value right now isn’t at an all-time high, not showing he’s capable of developing his play reading ability over the last few years. While athleticism, arm strength and running ability are nice, most general managers prefer guys who can make things happen without having to run out of the pocket.
Kaepernick stormed onto the scene in 2012 as Alex Smith’s backup, a chance Harbaugh was making to change, just needing the excuse. This helped the 49ers make the Super Bowl, with Kaepernick putting on quite a show in the postseason, especially against the Packers. In 2013 it was more of the same for Kaepernick, his one full starting season without taking too much criticism. But it seemed the momentum flipped on him the moment the 49ers lost to the Seahawks in the conference championship game.
He completed just 59% of his passes so far this season, throwing six touchdown passes and five interceptions, while posting career lows in QBR and passer rating. There’s still life and football in Kaepernick, but maybe he needs a very different situation, not to mention a head coach and front office who believe in him and know what to do with him in order to make him successful. However, there’s also the chance he’s not going to be a starter for anyone ever again. Things change quickly in the NFL, even for one-time franchise quarterbacks.