General manager Trent Baalke said he “absolutely” expected Colin Kaepernick to remain on the 49ers’ roster, while also admitting he “can’t predict tomorrow.”
Baalke’s words ended up being prophetic.
Baalke made those statements on Wednesday. The next day, just hours after coach Chip Kelly said Kaepernick wants to be with the 49ers, Kaepernick’s agents told the 49ers a different story.
The latest development from Camp Kaepernick could not have come as a surprise to anyone -– certainly not to Baalke, who is well-aware of the background and the mistrust that has developed between Kaepernick and the organization.
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Baalke promised the 49ers would keep Kaepernick around past April 1, when Kaepernick’s scheduled $11.9 milion salary becomes fully guaranteed. Then, Kelly went a step further by not only stating the 49ers’ intention of keeping Kaepernick. He stated Kaepernick’s position, too.
"He wants to be here,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “He's never expressed to me that he didn't want to be here. He expressed to me that he's excited about getting healthy and getting going. And we're excited about him getting healthy and getting going."
Kelly might not know all of the history. He said he was getting his information from his face-to-face and over-the-phone conversations with Kaepernick.
At the suggestion the continuation of the Kaepernick-49ers union might not add up, Kelly tried to discredit the suggestion there was ever any doubt about Kaepernick’s future with the 49ers.
"I think people are looking for like a second gunman or something,” Kelly said. “You know what I mean? I think he's a really talented football player, and I'm excited to get working with him."
[MAIOCCO: Report: Kaepernick requests permission to seek trade]
It’s fully possible Baalke and Kelly meant every word they said. It’s also possible the organization does not value Kaepernick at his current price tag of $14.3 million, which includes $2 million in per-game roster bonuses and a $400,000 workout bonus.
The statements from Baalke and Kelly, in essence, put the pressure on Kaepernick’s court to take a stand. Perhaps fearing the 49ers were intent on keeping him around, it forced Kaepernick’s representation to make the bold move of asking out.
Now, if the 49ers want to part ways with Kaepernick they likely do not have to worry about the logistics involved with parting ways with an injured player whose base salary is guaranteed for injury only.
The 49ers are in no hurry to act, which is why they have not responded to the request to give Kaepernick the ability to talk to teams that might be interested in his services. The 49ers can sit tight and not do a thing with Kaepernick until they figure out their course of action in free agency.
After all, the 49ers can determine whether they go after a free-agent quarterback, such as Robert Griffin or Sam Bradford, in the early stages of free agency.
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Then, they can try to deal Kaepernick to the highest bidder or simply set him free -– assuming Kaepernick waives the 49ers of any financial responsibility. After all, it seems Kaepernick wants out from his 49ers’ contract more than he’s intent on collecting any more of their money.
It’s difficult to believe Kaepernick truly fits into the team’s plan because the 49ers clearly do not fit into his plan. The aura surrounding him in the locker room last year was not positive. Now, after formally requesting a change of scenery, there is no going back. Kelly needs his players to buy into his program. He does not need a quarterback who has made it known he does not want to be with the organization.
There is no question Kaepernick is attractive to multiple teams. The Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns have long been viewed as logical landing spots. The Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams could also be interested.
The 49ers could continue to insist Kaepernick fits into their plan for the upcoming season. The trade demand will come from teams who are competing against each other for his services.
The 49ers received two second-round picks for Alex Smith three years ago. Kaepernick, coming off a season in which he was benched after eight games and is currently rehabbing from surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee, probably will not fetch that much in return.
But, as it Baalke pointed out -– as it always pertains to the 49ers and Kaepernick -- it’s impossible to predict tomorrow.