Even before the 2016 season ended, it was assumed quarterback Colin Kaepernick would not return to the 49ers in 2017.
Kaepernick’s performance the past two seasons hasn’t been up to his previous standards, and the team is headed in a new direction with recently hired head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
Plus, Kaepernick – signed with San Francisco through 2017 – can opt out of the deal in March, and the team can cut him without a significant financial hit.
But what if the assumption that Kaepernick will leave is wrong? What if Kaepernick believes his best shot to re-prove himself as an NFL quarterback is with the 49ers?
On Wednesday, Kaepernick met with Shanahan and Lynch at team headquarters, and Lynch said later in an interview on KNBR that it was “a positive discussion.”
Lynch said Kaepernick left the meeting excited and added that the 49ers’ evaluation of Kaepernick as an option for 2017 is “still very much fluid.”
“We’ve only been on the job a couple of weeks,” Lynch said on KNBR, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “I can tell you, we both very much enjoyed being around Colin, and he seems like he’s in a real good place.”
As Barrows noted, the 49ers could decide to release him, and then re-sign him for less than the $15 million he’s due to make this coming season. Because of Kaepernick’s inconsistent play and a lack of NFL suitors, that might be “his best chance to win a starting job,” Barrows wrote.
Shanahan has indicated he’s willing to explore all options to stock the quarterback position in 2017, including through trades, free agency and the draft. Shanahan recently said that includes keeping the lines of communication open with Kaepernick.
“I think that’s very important for both sides,” Shanahan said, according to Marc Sessler of NFL.com. “Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking as well.”
Wednesday’s meeting allowed both side to do just that.
Sessler, however, hardly sees Kaepernick as the key to Shanahan’s hopes in turning around the 49ers in his rookie season as head coach.
“(Shanahan) knows the honeymoon will end quickly in San Francisco if the team endures another season of horrid quarterback play,” he wrote. “No matter what anyone says, Kaepernick is hardly atop the coach’s wish list.”