It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When Colin Kaepernick became the 49ers’ starter in 2012, he looked like the franchise’s next great quarterback and a franchise fixture for many years.
He was 5-2 as a starter in 2012 after taking over for Alex Smith, then was 12-4 in 2013. He was the ultimate dual threat with the ability to complete long passes and break long runs. Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski, an ESPN analyst, was his ultimate fan.
“I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,” Jaworski said before the start of the 2013 season. “I love his skill set. I think the sky’s the limit.”
Instead, Kaepernick struggled in 2014 and lost his starting job in 2015 before regaining it this past season. He wasn’t the same dynamic player he was in leading the Niners to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.
Now it appears his days are officially over with the franchise – as expected.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Kaepernick’s new agents have informed all NFL teams that their client will opt out of his contract in San Francisco to become a free agent. At 29, Kaepernick is looking for a fresh start.
He had another year left on his deal with the 49ers, worth as much as $14.5 million, but it was a flexible contract that allowed both Kaepernick and the team to opt out (with the 49ers off the hook for most of it).
Kaepernick reportedly had a good meeting with new general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan recently, but it was known the team is searching for a new passer in 2017, either through free agency or the draft.
There likely will be some team willing to take a chance on Kaepernick because of his skills. Perhaps he can thrive in a new system with new coaches and a better supporting cast. For the Niners, however, it gives Shanahan a fresh start with a new quarterback group.