Colin Kaepernick is expected to opt out of his 49ers contract. But there are plenty of reasons why he should be excited about San Francisco.
“I would characterize it as a really positive discussion … Colin left excited.”
That was how 49ers GM John Lynch summed up the meeting he and head coach Kyle Shanahan had with Colin Kaepernick.
It is to dismiss Lynch’s words in that interview with KNBR as your typical offseason trope, and talk of an amiable discussion between the three parties is unlikely to temper the expectation that Kaepernick will opt out of his contract and hit the free-agent market.
Yet there are plenty of reasons why Kaepernick should be excited about the situation with the 49ers and why their remains a good chance he stays with the team in 2017.
As the Niners floundered to a 2-14 record in 2016, it went largely unnoticed Colin Kaepernick actually played well in his 11 starts last season.
Indeed, Kaepernick demonstrated development as a pocket passer while remaining a threat on the run and completed just a shade under 60 percent of his passes, finishing the year with 2241 yards and 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
He compiled those numbers while playing with a talent-poor supporting cast. And, after showing some signs of development in 2016, Kaepernick has to be enticed by the prospect of playing under a head coach in Shanahan who is renowned for getting the best out of players and oversaw the No. 1 ranked offense in total points last year.
Remaining in the Bay Area should start to look like more of a realistic option when Kaepernick looks at the teams on the market in need of a quarterback.
For the sake of argument, let’s go through the franchises out to add a signal-caller and assess the likelihood of them being a fit for Kaepernick.
Cleveland — While the Browns have a likeable head coach in Hue Jackson, some young offensive talent and the capital to add more, the Browns fan base is tired of being a laughingstock and may turn quickly on Kaepernick should he start to struggle. The Browns may also be keen to give Cody Kessler a chance to build on the glimpses of promise he displayed in his rookie year.
Chicago — This all depends on whether the Bears part with Jay Cutler. If they do, and they aren’t high on one of the quarterbacks in the draft, then there could be a fit here. Chicago could also try to re-sign Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley and have one of that duo serve as a bridge QB.
Houston — The Texans are tied to a bad Brock Osweiler contract and appear to have some faith — well placed or not — in Tom Savage. It’s tough to see Kaepernick landing here.
Buffalo — Kaepernick was heavily booed by Bills fans for his controversial national anthem protest. It’s very hard to see them making a bid for his services.
New York Jets — The market will definitely appeal to Kaepernick, and the Jets do not have an answer on their roster. But with New York comes big pressure and a potentially toxic situation, Kaepernick may want to avoid another one of those.
Denver — The Broncos danced with the 49ers over Kaepernick last year and settled on Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Don’t expect them to make another push for him.
The Bears and the Jets therefore stand as the best fits for Kaepernick, but will he get anything close to the $14.5 million base salary he is set to collect from the 49ers in 2017 on the open market?
The short answer is no.
Kaepernick also knows the 49ers will likely continue to support his right to kneel during the national anthem, something which is not guaranteed elsewhere.
He can also approach his decision knowing that the man who was the apparent source of his frustration with the 49er organization, Trent Baalke, is gone.
The 49ers have $78m of cap space to spend in free agency, per Over The Cap, and 10 draft picks, providing them with plenty of tools with which to rebuild their offense, having already made moves to bring in cornerback K’Waun Williams and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
That huge amount of capital San Francisco has at its disposal this offseason should also factor into Kaepernick’s decision.
He is line to earn a salary he will not get elsewhere in 2017. With an offensive mind like Shanahan coming aboard, Kaepernick should consider the 49ers are increasingly viable option and not rush into opting out of a lucrative contract with a team that may still be his best bet at rebuilding his career.