San Francisco 49ers Should Simply Cut Quarterback Colin Kaepernick
By Peter Panacy
The San Francisco 49ers’ situation with quarterback Colin Kaepernick seems to get uglier by the moment. With no real answer in sight, the Niners would be doing everyone a service by simply cutting him prior to April 1.
The Niners should cut quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
All one needs to do is check out a Twitter-feed search on Kaepernick to determine how big the rift has grown between him and the San Francisco 49ers ever since the tail end of the 2014 season.
Back then, Kaepernick still had an ally in former head coach Jim Harbaugh. With Harbaugh no longer in the picture, San Francisco’s former star quarterback donned the scrutiny and scapegoat-ism associated with a player not exactly viewed as a favorite by the front office and, in some cases, within his own locker room.
Kaepernick’s Week 9 benching last year in the wake of a disastrous 2015 season didn’t help either. Oh, and his overly team-friendly contract signed prior to 2014 was an ominous sign of things to come.
San Francisco didn’t trust Kap to be its guy. And he shouldn’t trust the organization either.
The current situation — one in which Kaepernick has requested a trade and the one in which the 49ers may or may not oblige him — shouldn’t be surprising. But the 49ers should have one clear choice, even if it’s not pretty, to solve this seemingly endless issue once and for all.
They should simply release him.
On the surface, this seems like the worst thing San Francisco could do, right? Kaepernick still has trade value, one might assume. He carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl not long ago, and fans can still recall how he came to dominate the NFL back in 2012 and 2013. That has to be worth something, anything.
But the problem with a trade scenario is this: it’s a buyer’s market. Teams in need of a quarterback this offseason will have plenty of options from which to choose.
Many, often slated early in the upcoming NFL draft, could go the route of tabbing a rookie signal-caller. One team, the Cleveland Browns, possibly linked to a Kaepernick trade was already reported to have shot down any rumored interest in the 49ers quarterback, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
The Browns will likely be pursuing North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz in the draft. So there goes that possibility.
And there shouldn’t be too many other options. At least not likable ones for Kaepernick or the 49ers.
The problem is Kaepernick won’t net much on the trade market. What would his worth be? Well the return may not be anything close to the investment, according to ESPN’s John Clayton:
"What is Kaepernick’s value on the trade market? It would seem unlikely that the 49ers could match the two second-round picks they received when quarterback Alex Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. It’s debatable whether the 49ers could net much better than a fourth- or a fifth-round pick for Kaepernick."
So trading Kaepernick may not be the best of scenarios for the 49ers either. And while they could get something, anything in return, you probably won’t see teams lining up to call general manager Trent Baalke.
There’s the option of keeping Kaepernick on the roster for 2016. This may be the best choice for Kaepernick. He’d have a legitimate shot to compete for a starting job within a franchise he already knows — even if he’s disgruntled with it — and could benefit from the tutelage of head coach Chip Kelly.
The keywords there are may and could. And that is probably the best thing Kaepernick has going for him right now. He wouldn’t be traded to the highest bidder — likely an offensively challenged team in desperate need of a quarterback — and he would still end up cashing in on that $12 million 2016 signing bonus when it becomes official on April 1.
And it may not be a bad choice for the Niners either. Should the 49ers draft a quarterback at No. 7 overall, Kaepernick and fellow QB Blaine Gabbert could compete for a starting role in 2016, while the Niners groom their quarterback of the future.
Kaepernick just has to tell himself, “one more year of this mess” while cashing in those paychecks.
But the 49ers probably won’t want to go down this road either. It’s no secret Kaepernick is unhappy with the organization and how the front office handled the situation. And would the team want a disgruntled $12-plus million player dividing the locker room in, potentially, a backup role?
No. That’s a bad situation just waiting to get worse.
San Francisco should simply cut bait and be through with it. But exactly when this would happen would be up for debate.
Should the Niners do so at the start of free agency on March 9, teams may be interested. And Kaepernick may have more than a handful of suitors. But Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports suggested the 49ers could wait it out for more than enough reasons:
"Kaepernick wants out now, so he could hit the market on March 9 when the market opens to try to find the best team and contract possible, hence the trade demand. And the 49ers could squat on him until the end of March, wait for teams to blow their free agent budgets and sign the other quarterbacks and get deep into their meetings and visits with the quarterbacks in this draft, and then cut a still-injured Kaepernick just before his 2016 contract becomes guaranteed with his options elsewhere even further limited."
If the 49ers go that route, it would spite Kaepernick. And maybe that’s what the Niners’ front office had in mind all along.
What matters though is San Francisco holds all the cards in this ongoing saga. And none of the plausible outcomes appear pretty. Yet the 49ers could make it clear they intend on turning the page in what has developed into a very ugly story and simply just move on.
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Regardless how ugly it may be, such a move would be an indication of the 49ers taking a new direction — something they need to do and at the soonest possible moment.
It may not be perfect for Kaepernick. Heck, it may not be perfect for San Francisco.
But it’s the last best option.
Next: Staying Put May be Best for Colin Kaepernick
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Contractual information courtesy of Over the Cap.