This season is over for Colin Kaepernick, and for the San Francisco 49ers as well actually. But the future, which means 2016, is just around the corner, and both sides are keeping all the options open.
Kaepernick has been the starter for the 49ers since midway through the 2012 season. It started out great by making the Super Bowl. A year later the Niners lost in the conference championship game. Then began a pretty evident decline, including losing his starting job this season. Sure, there’s the injury he had a surgery to repair which took him out for the season, but the benching was about him playing poorly, and maybe the 49ers moving on.
The first time Blaine Gabbert played signaled to many people the last time Kaepernick appeared in 49ers uniform. He has a deal that runs through 2020, but it’s filled with roster bonuses and openings for the 49ers to cut him. In short, he’s owed $11.9 million in base salary next season, guaranteed, but only if he’s on the roster by April 1.
Which brings us to a very simple question: Do the 49ers think they want Kaepernick on the roster for that kind of money? If the answer is yes, then he remains the starter for this team. But it’s probably more complicated than that. If they think Gabbert is good enough to compete with him for a job, than Kaepernick is worth a lot less. And then it becomes a matter of asking him to open up his contract and restructure. Translation: Take a massive pay cut, or maybe turn it into an even more bonus-filled deal.
From here it’s a matter of Kaepernick assessing the market and finding out what he’s worth. It may be that starting jobs aren’t going to be offered to him around the league, or none that are guaranteed. He’ll probably have to compete for one in San Francisco while taking a big pay cut. Is his ego going to allow it? Does he look for somewhere new? It’s a long time from now until the decision is made, but it’s quite incredible to think how things have changed for Kaepernick. From a franchise quarterback signing a nine-figure deal to a player the 49ers might simply cut without thinking twice.