To say things haven’t gone very well in 2016 for the San Francisco 49ers is putting it mildly. To be completely honest, you could probably argue that it’s been worst case scenario at every possible turn. The offense can’t move the ball (302 total yards or less in eight games), the defense is abysmal (30.5 points allowed per game) and the coaching staff can’t seem to make any second half adjustments (Niners have been held scoreless in the third quarter six times). So yeah, things are bad right now. So bad in fact that it probably makes sense to blow it all up and start over, especially at the quarterback position where QB Colin Kaepernick currently heads the depth chart.
By now everyone knows Kaepernick’s story. He took the league by storm and the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, only to see his performance dip significantly over the next three seasons. He entered 2016 as the backup, but took over for QB Blaine Gabbert in Week 6 because…well…Gabbert stinks. However, because of the way his contract was arranged, Kaepernick was basically on a year-to-year deal that would only really become guaranteed if he got injured. The 49ers didn’t want to be stuck with owing that money, and Kaepernick was pretty much done with San Francisco, so the two sides decided to void the guarantees and the remaining years of his deal. Interestingly enough though, they gave Kaepernick a player option for 2017.
Now when the contract was redone, the odds of Kaepernick wanting to be back and being welcomed back were slim to none. It looked like he’d play out the season, void the deal, and look elsewhere for employment next year. However, things have become more complicated since then, and I’m not sure it will play out that way anymore.
For one, no one knows what to possibly expect from the 49ers moving forward. Will they fire GM Trent Baalke or give him another year? Could HC Chip Kelly be one and done or will the Yorks keep him around? Personally, I don’t think there’s anyway Kelly’s let go unless he takes a job elsewhere (i.e. at the collegiate level). In that scenario, that 49ers are off the hook for the $18 million they still owe him. I just don’t see the Yorks eating that kind of money. So assume Kelly will be back for at least one more year, whether it’s with Baalke in tow or not.
If the scenario play out that way, there’s a very good chance Kaepernick decides to stick around next year. Why? Well, for starters, he has zero chance of making anywhere near the $14,5 million he’ll bring in with the Niners in 2017. If he hit the free agent market, he’d probably have to either take backup money or a “prove it” type deal. Who’s going to pay him to be their starter? The New York Jets? Maybe as a stop gap, but not at $14.5 million. The Chicago Bears? They’d probably be better off with QB Brian Hoyer as a place holder. So, limited options and almost no chance of a raise would make me think Kaepernick will lean towards one more year in San Francisco.
Colin Kaepernick's completion rate in 2016:
1st half: 73.5 %
2nd half: 38.2%#49ers
— Al Sacco (@AlSacco49) November 23, 2016
As far as the Niner’s side of things, what better options would they have? Odds are they will be picking within the top three or four of the draft, but there are no sure things at the quarterback position coming out, and swinging and missing at someone like QB Deshaun Watson or QB Deshone Kizer could set the franchise back even farther. The team could be better off taking a signal caller later, and using their first round pick on a wide receiver or pass rusher. That would probably mean the new quarterback would need some time to develop and, in turn, a veteran would be needed to start in the meantime.
— Al Sacco (@AlSacco49) November 17, 2016
A look at the free agent/trade market doesn’t seem very promising, at least not for the 49ers. QB Tony Romo should be available, but he’s not spending the twilight of his career rebuilding. QB Jimmy Garoppolo might be had at a steep price, but I don’t think San Francisco has the capital to get a deal done. Other than that, are guys like QB Mike Glennon or QB Jay Cutler that big of a step up from Kaepernick?
Taking all this into consideration, it’s entirely possible that, despite all the drama that’s happened, Kaepernick could indeed be back in San Francisco next season. Stranger things have happened and, I mean, these are the 49ers we’re talking about. Would anything surprise you at this point?