The San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick all appear to be involved in a stare down with each waiting for someone to flinch. The New York Jets are quietly observing, waiting for the right opportunity to jump in. Each of the teams would like to have Kaepernick on their roster for the upcoming season. The quarterback would not mind playing for any of the teams – except for the 49ers of course.
What are the 49ers thinking? Why haven't they pulled the trigger on a trade yet? How long can this play out? After all, at least one of the teams has already made what they feel to be a strong offer. Let's start there.
Kaepernick would not mind playing of the Super Bowl champions, who after losing some key free agents, still remain a strong team led by an aggressive defense. This would be the best situation for Kaepernick and both parties know it. If an aged and diminished Peyton Manning could do well enough to win a championship with this team, surely Kaepernick could see some success here. Possibly even enough success to jump start his career. The Broncos aren't the healthiest team when it comes to salary cap space and Kaepernick's salary would likely eat most of that up, but he also may be more willing to restructure his contract to play for a stronger team.
Kaepernick feels betrayed by 49ers management, who allowed him to sign a team-friendly deal while insinuating that they would use the savings to keep the team competitive – which they obviously failed to do.
With the loss of Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans, Denver is without a starting calibre quarterback. The acquisition of Mark Sanchez from the Philadelphia Eagles does not change that.
The real roadblock on this deal is what Denver is offering San Francisco for the quarterback. It was reported on Monday that the Broncos, led by general manager John Elway, feel that Kaepernick is worth a fourth round selection. They do not have a fourth round pick that they can trade. They have a compensatory pick in that round, but those cannot be traded until a rule change goes into effect in 2017.
Meanwhile, the 49ers want a second round pick in exchange for their quarterback, who will immediately be inked in as the starter for Denver. In the second round, the Broncos have the 63rd overall selection, the last of the round.
It is likely that the Broncos have met the 49ers somewhere in the middle, which would be their third round selection and the 94th overall pick.
What the 49ers want: Round 2 pick (No. 63 overall)
What the Broncos offered: Round 3 pick (No. 94 overall)
Kaepernick: Willing to restructure to play in Denver
With that selection being deep in the third round, it is unlikely that the 49ers are willing to consider it and would rather deal with another team as they wait for the Broncos to become desperate enough to offer more.
Which brings us to the…
The Browns draft a lot higher than the Broncos in the third round. They have the second pick of the round, which is the 65th overall. It could be viewed as a very low second round pick. Regardless, it is a better offer than what Denver is presenting and just two picks lower than what the 49ers actually want from the Broncos. San Francisco is fine with this and have generally agreed to the compensation.
The holdup here is Kaepernick himself, who is less willing to restructure his contract for a team that is not in any better shape than the 49ers. Last week, reports said that he would be willing to play for Cleveland and new head coach Hue Jackson. However, things have changed since then. The team has since lost two key offensive lineman and Kaepernick's willingness to play there has reportedly thawed.
The Browns have a healthy amount of salary cap space available to consume Kaepernick's contract and still build around him, so it may simply be the conditions of the contract that they are concerned about.
There is also the possibility that the Browns may still take a quarterback with the second overall selection. Would they want to commit so much money to a quarterback that may not even be their starter? As for Kaepernick, he would be in the same situation in Cleveland as he would be in San Francisco, so he has less incentive to restructure in order to play here.
What the 49ers want: Round 3 pick (No. 65 overall)
What the Browns offered: Round 3 pick (No. 65 overall)
Kaepernick: Less willing to restructure to play in Cleveland
Cleveland has not had recent discussions with Kaepernick's representatives and until a restructure can be generally agreed upon, the Browns seem unwilling to pull the trigger on the deal.
San Francisco 49ers
If the 49ers cannot pull off a deal for the draft selections that they desire, they would be wise to just keep Kaepernick, as they have already stated they are willing to do. After all, they can afford it. It's not like they are going on a free agency spending spree.
The real problem would be the awkward situation that it would create. On their roster, they would have a quarterback that doesn't really want to be there fighting for a starting job that he feels should be handed to him. Last month, new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly said that he was eager to work with Kaepernick, but that enthusiasm may have changed. He has been known to to have little patience for players who do not buy into what he is selling. Kaepernick would definitely fall into that category.
Of course, the 49ers shouldn't take less than what they see as fair market value for Kaepernick. While the Broncos may feel that he has a fourth round value, he is rightfully worth more than that to San Francisco and Denver is likely just trying to steal a starting quarterback away.
The Broncos may also be waiting to see if the 49ers cut Kaepernick prior to the April 1 deadline that guarantees him his $11.9 million base salary. The 49ers have stated that a release will not happen. They are perfectly willing to and financially capable of eating the quarterback's salary for another year.
New York Jets
Sitting in the corner and waiting to see what plays out are the Jets. They want their 2015 starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to return to the team. However, they are not willing to overpay for him given their shortage of salary cap space. Even if they saw more value in Kaepernick, they would still need to make some moves or restructure his contract in order to afford him.
If the Broncos give up on Kaepernick and go after Fitzpatrick, or if any other team does the same, a more desperate Jets team may jump into the bidding war.
The Jets own the 20th pick in the second round (No. 51 overall) and the 20th pick in the third round (No. 83 overall).