Colin Kaepernick Could Be Returning To The 49ers

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick endured a rough 2015 season. But, things may be turning around for the upcoming year. Per ESPN, Niners general manager Trent Baalke said Wednesday that Kaepernick will be on the team’s roster on April 1, when his $11.9 million base salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed.

The bold statement was made by Baalke, while at the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis. A clause in the quarterback’s contract allows the 49ers to release him in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before April 1, before any remaining money on his contract that was guaranteed for injury only becomes fully guaranteed.

In 2017, Kaepernick’s base salary of $14.5 million will become guaranteed if he’s still on the roster on April 1, while in 2018, $5.2 million of his $15 million base salary would be fully guaranteed if he’s with the team on April 1. Kaepernick is under contract through the 2020 season as part of the six-year, $114 million contract he signed in 2014.

Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick is recovering from three major surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb, and left knee. Baalke was asked whether Kaepernick would be the starter next year. He indicated that the embattled quarterback’s health was more important. The decisions would be made after he was healthy.

“The main focus right now is health, getting him healthy,” Baalke explained. “He’s done a good job with his rehab. Talking to the medical staff, that seems to be going very well, and we just look forward to getting him back and getting him working with this coaching staff.”

As far as a quarterback controversy, Baalke commended both Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick.

“I think the good thing is we’ve got two guys that have gone into games who’ve proven they can play,” Baalke continued. “Colin’s done some awful good things through his career, won some big games for the San Francisco 49ers, and we expect him to come back.”

In 2016, Kaepernick will be playing for his third head coach since he joined the 49ers in 2011, as former Eagles coach Chip Kelly was hired to replace the fired Jim Tomsula. Kaepernick was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, when Jim Harbaugh was the team’s coach.

The controversy started when Gabbert replaced Kaepernick as the starter. Although Gabbert went 3-5 as the Niners main signal-caller, that was just one game better than Kaepernick. As a starter, Kaepernick is a respectable 27-20, according to Pro Football Reference.

Colin Kaepernick
It should be noted Baalke might not be telling the truth. It’s been suggested that Kaepernick might not be the quarterback Kelly wants. It’s also been reported that Kaepernick wants out of San Francisco. Beyond that, a commitment like the one Baalke offered has proven to be useless in recent history. Last year, Jay Gruden committed to Robert Griffin III as Washington’s starter. Kirk Cousins ended up being the starter. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Sam Bradford was his guy. Every scenario changed.

“I think if you look at the quarterbacks that Coach has had, he hasn’t had a bunch of guys that can run, and he’s been able to put together some pretty good offenses with guys that aren’t able to run,” Baalke said. “You get an extra advantage of having a quarterback that can run so I think if you talk to any coordinator they’re going to take that as a positive. But it’s not a necessity.”

Baalke has said that the 49ers were open to adding another quarterback this season. That may or may not be a good situation for Kaepernick. The Philadelphia Eagles are rumored to have some interest in him. The bigger question is if Kaepernick will be on the roster when the regular season opens. That should end all speculation.

[Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images]