This isn’t likely to be a smooth, carefree offseason for Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers quarterback, who lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert midway through the 2015 season – then had surgery to correct his damaged non-throwing shoulder, the thumb on his right hand and left knee – is a player with an uncertain future.
Niners CEO Jed York says he still believes in Kaepernick’s talents and new head coach Chip Kelly has indicated Kaepernick will be given a chance to win back the starting job. But the 49ers also could release him or trade him.
With that in mind, expect rumors and status-update reports to continue to swirl around Kaepernick this entire offseason as he goes through rehabilitation to be ready for offseason conditioning, practices and summer training camp.
The latest came late Tuesday night, when the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta, citing sources, reported that Kaepernick “wants out of San Francisco” and that his preferred landing spot is with the New York Jets.
“Although Kaepernick wants to play in New York, he still has five years remaining on a blockbuster $114 million extension signed in 2014 that includes escape hatches for his current employer,” wrote Mehta. “The Jets, coming off a 10-win season, would have to trade for Kaepernick or wait until he’s cut.”
Mehta’s story had a full-page photo of Kaepernick with the headline: “Make me a Jet! Kaepernick wants to leave Niners & join Gang Green.”
It’s been projected by many analysts that Kaepernick, 28, might be the perfect quarterback for Kelly’s wide-open, fast-paced offense that includes the read option. With a new head coach, offensive system and an upgraded supporting cast – if San Francisco can make a splash in free agency and the draft – many give Kaepernick a chance to spark a stalled career with the 49ers.
But the 49ers could go another direction and release Kaepernick before April 1 when his 2016 salary becomes guaranteed. Such a move reportedly would save them $8.5 million.
Mehta writes that the Jets have said they would like to re-sign holdover QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (they also have Geno Smith), but that Kaepernick might end their “decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.”
As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reported, however, for now it makes no difference whether Kaepernick wants to go to the Jets or if the Jets want him. His rights are controlled by the 49ers, and if Kelly and Co. want him, that’s where he’ll say. He still has five years left on his deal in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, not everyone with the Jets would be thrilled to see Kaepernick join the team.
On Wednesday morning, Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, in a Super Bowl-week interview on ESPN, voiced support for Fitzpatrick.
“I don’t want Kaepernick,” he said. “I think he’s good. My guy’s Fitz.”