The 49ers’ top priority entering the beginning of the new league year on Wednesday is to figure out what to do at quarterback.
Right now, they are maintaining the position that they want Colin Kaepernick on the team. But it’s generally a good idea to move forward only with players -- especially quarterbacks –- who actually want to be on the team.
That subject kicks off today’s 49ers Mailbag ...
If Kap truly wants out, don’t you feel it would be a detriment to keep around? (Daniel Robbins)
If he truly wants out, yes, the 49ers would be wise to part ways with him.
If Kaepernick truly wants out and the 49ers keep him on their roster, he probably would be unwilling to report for the team’s offseason program, which begins April 4.
And if the quarterback is not there with his teammates to learn Chip Kelly’s system, then it certainly does not benefit the 49ers to keep him against his will.
At the NFL Scouting Combine last week, Kelly was asked his feelings about players who speak out or go in their own direction. Here’s what the 49ers’ first-year coach had to say:
“There’s a difference between somebody who doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do in practice and somebody who speaks his mind. I’ve never regulated anybody on what they say or do. We’re all allowed to have our own thought processes and feelings about things. ... But you still have to do what the team is doing. You can’t have 46 independent contractors or you’re not going to be successful.”
I asked Kelly if he holds his quarterback to a higher standard when it comes to leadership. His answer:
“I think that’s wrong because you’re also telling the other guys that they don’t have to do what’s right. I expect them all to hold themselves to a high standard. To say that one position has to be held to a higher standard than everybody else, is a) You’re letting the other positions off the hook and b) You’re doing a disservice to those guys. You want people who love playing football and love being part of a team, because it is a team game. To be in this game, you have to be selfless in certain aspects because the good of the team always has to come first.”
Kaepernick thought he was putting the team first when he signed his contract extension in 2014. But the 49ers did not use the cap space to keep the roster intact, like he thought was the plan. That was the first stage of his discontent with the organization, according to sources.
Then, he felt the organization was undermining him with whispers that he shut himself off from the rest of the locker room by wearing headphones in the locker room and cafeteria. There was also talk about how much more time Blaine Gabbert spent watching film.
Finally, Kaepernick had some serious misgivings about the way the team’s medical staff handled his injuries. He went outside the organization to have surgeries on his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee. He is not rehabbing with the 49ers, instead choosing to work at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado, where he had the surgeries.
The fact that Kaepernick’s representation asked for permission to seek a trade was no surprise, but we still don't know how far Kaepernick is willing to go to ensure he’s playing elsewhere next season.
Are the 49ers going let Ahmad Brooks go? (Alfonso Vega)
There is no reason for the 49ers to release a player unless they are feeling a squeeze on the salary cap or they have somebody better on the roster to take the player’s spot. The 49ers have plenty of salary-cap space, and they do not have a non-starting outside linebacker on the roster who is better than Brooks.
How many offensive linemen do the Niners plan to keep going into camp? (Miguel Evangelista)
The numbers are flexibile, but the 49ers can be expected to have anywhere from 15 to 18 offensive lineman on their 90-man roster at the beginning of training camp. They will carry nine or 10 offensive lineman on their 53-man roster with seven suiting up for games. Then, they can carry another couple offensive linemen on the practice squad.
Guard Jordan Devey is scheduled to be an exclusive-rights free agent, and there is no reason for the 49ers not to tender him. It’s a non-guaranteed contract, of course. If he’s good enough to make the team, he makes the team. If he’s not, he gets cut. If the 49ers, as expected, add some players along the offensive line, Devey will face an uphill battle to win a spot. That’s got to be the goal: Increase the talent level to the point where a guy who started nine games last season is replaced by a better player.
Veteran Eric Pears’ best chance this season is as a guard or a swing tackle. The 49ers are not expected to retain guard Alex Boone, so there will be some competition -– and some inevitable changes –- for starting jobs this season. Anthony Davis has stated he plans to return. He will also find himself in competition to earn a spot on the team's roster, as well as possibly regain his starting job at right tackle.
Remember, there are 90 roster spots available on the offseason. Only 53 players will make the opening-day roster. Forty-one percent of the players who are on the offseason roster will end up getting released.