The Denver Broncos are close to having the quarterback they want for next season, but the San Francisco 49ers can’t complete the trade with them which sends Colin Kaepernick their way without the quarterback agreeing on restructuring his contract, which means taking a paycut.
Kaepernick wasn’t released by the 49ers up to April 1, which means the $11.9 million for this season became guaranteed. And that $11.9 million is the cause of this problem: The Broncos don’t want to pay all of it, only willing to spend $7 million this season on Kaepernick. Both the Broncos and Kaepernick would like the 49ers to pay that $4.9 million, but they won’t do it. Kaepernick isn’t willing to take a paycut. He prefers sitting on the bench if that’s the other alternative, which serves the 49ers right if they didn’t want him in the first place, not to mention the bad contract they gave him which everyone wanted him about, and the way out they had and decided not to take advantage of.
The Broncos and Kaepernick have met a couple of times and have worked out the details of his contract which runs through 2020, but the 2016 season remains the only obstacle from the deal being completed. Releasing Kaepernick this season would have meant clearing more than $8 million in cap space for the 49ers, but also more than $7 million in dead money. Before the Broncos and Kaepernick reconstructed his potential contract, he would have been a $19.3 million cap hit, and releasing him before April 1, 2017 can save the team $14.4 million.
Right now the 49ers only have Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert on their depth chart, but they probably intend on drafting a quarterback (probably not in the first round) to try and see if there’s someone worth developing in the long term. While initially the arrival of Chip Kelly seemed to mean Kaepernick would get a new chance with the 49ers after a bad 2015 season which was interrupted by injury, it looks like the two sides don’t really want to be involved anymore.
Kaepernick played in nine games last season for the 49ers, completing just 59% of his passes for six touchdowns and five interceptions. He finished with career lows in passer rating (78.5) and ESPN’s QBR (47.1), while the 49ers crashed to a 5-11 season, completing their fall from three NFC Championship games (one Super Bowl as well) followed by an 8-8 season resulting in Jim Harbaugh being fired. Jim Tomsula replaced him but coached for just one season before getting fired as well.