The Cleveland Browns are rebuilding and need a quarterback. Colin Kaepernick wants to trade balmy West Coast breezes for the tranquility of Lake Erie. That’s old news. What’s new is the fact the Browns and San Francisco 49ers have hit a snag in the deal. The Browns and Niners are still talking, but Cleveland wants to have Kaepernick’s contract restructured.
The Broncos are the main threat to the Browns deal, but the New York Jets are an outside possibility. According to the Plain Dealer, Cleveland is willing to send their third-round pick, No. 65 overall, to San Francisco for the services of Kaepernick. The Broncos’ second-round pick is No. 63 overall, just two notches ahead of the Browns’ third-round pick. Their third-round selection is No. 94 overall. That might not cut it for the 49ers.
Kaepernick wants out of San Francisco. Suddenly Denver, who was the frontrunner in the sweepstakes on Thursday, is also reluctant to part with a high pick. The Broncos traded for Mark Sanchez on Friday and are prepared to start him in 2016. But that may be a smokescreen.
Hue Jackson is politely pushing the Browns to acquire Kaepernick. The deal may be what Cleveland needs. Somehow the Browns managed to get worse since the start of free agency on Wednesday. Starting center Alex Mack, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, and wide receiver Travis Benjamin all defected from the City by Lake Erie.
Kaepernick is willing to restructure his contract and take less money to get out of San Francisco. But after having three surgeries since December, he’s not fond of taking a cheaper deal on a losing team that may also use its first-round pick, No. 2 overall, on a quarterback.
John Elway tweeted that Mark Sanchez is ready for 2016, but the Broncos are still in the running for another signal-caller.
Acquired QB Mark Sanchez for a conditional '17 pick. He brings veteran leadership & will compete. This is the 1st step in our process.
— John Elway (@johnelway) March 11, 2016
According to ESPN, the Browns will likely want to cut Kaepernick’s $19 million a year salary by more than half. He signed a six-year extension in 2014 worth $114 million, including $61 million guaranteed. If he’s on a team’s roster on April 1, his $11.9 million base salary for 2016 is guaranteed. It’s a deal that doesn’t seem outrageous, given how Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans reset the quarterback market. Osweiler inked a deal worth $72 million for seven NFL starts.
Kaepernick would have taken the same offer the Browns gave him if it had come from the Broncos. After coming off a Super Bowl win, they present the better alternative. There’s also a lesser chance of Kaepernick being replaced by a draft pick that the Browns feel is their quarterback of the future.
The Niners insist they are willing to hold onto Kaepernick beyond the April 1 date on which they will owe him $11.9 million. They have plenty of cash to throw around. Head coach Chip Kelly said he’s eager to start working with Kaepernick this offseason.
If the Browns do trade for Kaepernick and draft a quarterback, starter Josh McCown could end up as trade bait. McCown finished the season on injured reserve with a broken collarbone. What the Browns could get for the aging quarterback is speculative.
Kaepernick respects Hue Jackson’s system and would like to play for the Browns. The feeling is more than mutual. Jackson wanted to draft Kaepernick in 2011 when he was coming out of Nevada, but the 49ers traded up with Denver and beat the Raiders.
While with the Eagles, Kelly had no patience for players who weren’t buying into his program. That may give Jackson and the Browns the edge they need to get Kaepernick.
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