The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be nearing a big decision on Colin Kaepernick, with reports that the now-benched quarterback could end up being cut sometime after the season.
Kaepernick has been plagued by inconsistency and inaccuracy in the last two seasons, and this week, the team finally pulled the trigger and benched Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert. It was a giant turn for the man once seen as San Francisco’s franchise quarterback, who led the team to a Super Bowl in his second year as a full-time starter.
The rift between Kaepernick and the team could grow even further. Many following the team noted that it would be difficult — nearly impossible — for owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke to go back to Kaepernick now, leading to rumors the San Francisco 49ers could soon cut him entirely.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 4, 2015
There could be some substance to the rumors that the San Francisco 49ers would cut Colin Kaepernick. Though he signed a $126 million contract extension in the summer of 2014, it was described by ESPN as “team friendly.” The guarantees are not vested until April, giving the 49ers time to cut Kaepernick and save the initial $9.36 million in salary cap along with the remaining unpaid amount, which is roughly $100 million.
Colin Kaepernick only had $61 million in guaranteed money as part of an injury clause. As ESPN noted, the San Francisco 49ers appeared to be hedging their bets against Kaepernick, who by summer 2014 was already showing signs of inconsistency.
“According to OverTheCap.com, Kaepernick’s relatively ‘[minuscule] signing bonus’ of $12.3 million shows the team hedged its bet since signing bonuses and fully guaranteed salary are what ‘helps protect a player from release both from cap consequences due to acceleration of money and the mental impact of sinking so much cash into a player and then releasing him.'”
The numbers would also seem to back the decision. This season, Kaepernick is completing just 59.3 percent of his passes, putting him near the bottom of the league.
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) November 3, 2015
It may be difficult to see the San Francisco 49ers going back to Colin Kaepernick after the benching, at least absent an injury to Gabbert, but they may be leaving the door open to that possibility. In announcing his benching this week, coach Jim Tomsula said that Kaepernick is in need of a mental break.
“This was just a decision that I just felt like I wanted Colin to step back and breathe,” Tomsula said (via ESPN). “Look at things through a different lens. Keep preparing, keep doing his thing, keep working, but just step back and take a look at things, OK. That’s what I want.”
Tomsula said it was a difficult decision, but one that was needed for the team. He was quick to defend Kaepernick, saying that the team’s 2-6 start is not all on the quarterback.
But with the San Francisco 49ers seemingly out of playoff contention, the team may already be looking to the future and taking a chance to kick the tires on Gabbert, a former first-round bust who struggled during his stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The San Francisco 49ers are now rumored to be among the teams searching for a new quarterback for 2016, a stunning turn of events for a team that once appeared set with Colin Kaepernick. This also may not be the end of the line for Kaepernick, with many NFL insiders believing he could do well with a fresh start and a new team.
[Picture by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]