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Trent Baalke’s comments don’t guarantee anything for Colin Kaepernick

Al Sacco
Feb 25, 2016 at 8:27 AM15

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Sometimes I wonder why any of us waste our time with what's said (or not said) by general managers and coaches in professional sports. Shouldn't we all know the drill by now? No matter how the question is worded or how many times it's asked, the answer is still either going to be politically correct or completely ambiguous.

Although we've all seen this move before, that doesn't stop the flurry of stories about a subject, even when we're still kind of right where we started. This is the way I feel about the most recent act in the never ending soap opera that is the San Francisco 49ers and their embattled quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

As most of you probably know, if Kaepernick is still on the roster April 1st, his 2016 salary of $11.9 million becomes completely guaranteed. That number is actually larger in terms of cap space, and would cost the 49ers $16.8 million in that regard. So, naturally, with the signal caller's future with the team a little cloudy these days, it was expected that general manager Trent Baalke would be peppered with questions at the scouting combine about whether or not he expects Kaepernick to be on the roster. His answer?


Now, if you took this response at face value and didn't read much into what he said afterwords, I think you're going to be surprised in the coming months. As Baalke went on, he didn't sound like a general manager who had complete faith in the player's absolute return. In fact, it gave me the impression that the situation is fluid and the 49ers (and Kaepernick) are still exploring their options.

"Bottom line, all of these guys under contract are under contract and the expectation is to move forward with them," said Baalke. "I can't predict tomorrow with anybody. The expectation is he's on our roster. I've stated that multiple times."

There it is. So after saying Kaepernick will "absolutely" be on the roster come April 1st, Baalke goes on to say that "you can't predict tomorrow," basically giving him an out for the absolutely comment. The expectation is he's on the roster, but hey, things change man.

"Obviously, we have two quarterbacks now who have proven they can go into NFL games and play and play at a high level," Baalke said. "There's no working knowledge of either of these quarterbacks in respect to the new staff. All of these guys are going to be competing for their positions."

This is the quote that really got me thinking. Blaine Gabbert will make $2 million this season, and count $2.25 million against the cap. His contract makes it very easy to justify him losing a camp battle and being regulated to second string. However, as I stated earlier, Kaepernick isn't in the same boat. It makes zero sense to me to keep a player who will count $16.8 million against your cap to "compete" for a position.

Baalke was asked about the possibility of the team's highest paid player being a backup, and he responded with the following.

"It wouldn't be the first time in history. Let's get these guys in here and let them go to work."

Yeah, okay Trent. So basically, you're totally expecting your most disappointing player who has your highest cap number to come back in an effort to compete for a position with another player? That's the entire plan, or is there another layer we need to peel back here?

"We feel pretty good with the guys we have but we're always looking," Baalke said in regards to the quarterback position. "We're certainly going to scour this draft and the free-agent market that's out there. Not a lot of quarterbacks make it to free agency. But we're going to look at every avenue."

Wait, there's more.

"You're going to kick the tires of everybody that's available," Baalke said when asked about Robert Griffin III. "To say interested or not, there's no competitive advantage for me to give that answer. But everybody that's available, we're going to kick the tires on, that's the job we do. Some are going to fit. Some aren't going to fit."

I think I've got it now. So basically, you're totally expecting your most disappointing player who has your highest cap number to come back in an effort to compete for a position with multiple players. That would mean not only could he be regulated to the bench, but could also be outplayed by everyone, causing him to be cut altogether. If you're scoring at home, if Kaepernick were to be let go under these circumstances, it would cost San Francisco $7.4 million in dead money in 2016.

Baalke did go on KNBR later in the day and backtrack a bit on his "absolutely" comment, posing the question "is there any absolute in this business?" I guess not, Trent.

As I mentioned earlier, the reality is that the Kaepernick dilemma is most likely still a work in progress. If he has value on the open market, it wouldn't be smart of the 49ers to just cut him and forfeit any compensation they may be able to receive. Kaepernick does make a significant amount of money, but it's middle of the road in terms quarterbacks in the league. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Kaepernick would have 16th highest cap hit at the position, slightly ahead of Andrew Luck's 16.2 million. When you look at it that way, it's not an obscene amount of cash for a team to take on if they feel he's the answer for them.

Ultimately, I think San Francisco will end up working out some kind of trade for Kaepernick, although the when and where's of that are beyond me. There are just too many questions and too much has transpired to continue this marriage. I also believe that, regardless of what they say publicly, the front office knows this is a rebuilding situation. With that notion being front and center, it makes sense to get a quarterback you can develop over time, and let him grow in Chip Kelly's system.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Steven G
    football fan, care to ask Al if you can edit your comment? So much for Kap wanting to be here.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 7:48 PM
  • don
    You nailed this story...
    Feb 25, 2016 at 6:59 PM
  • Scott
    Well Al I recant everything now LOL You knew the dumpster fire was still burning, I let my hopes over ride my brain again , like last year.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 5:53 PM
  • Jon
    Two words for this smokescreen; Trade Value
    Feb 25, 2016 at 2:18 PM
  • Nick
    It makes no sense to keep Kap because of his salary, cap hit and the fact that he does not have the tools to be an effective passer etc.... regardless of the system in place you either have it or you don't. Draft a QB and let Gabbert start, moving forward CK7 does not fit long term.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 1:35 PM
  • Scott
    He is polarizing when people don't take everything in to consideration. Read the latest webzone articles. I think they accept recant's AL , LOL No hard feelings you are a lot better then some, Cohn, Fat Rat and Kawi come to mind.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 11:16 AM
    Response: I'll take any (sort of) compliments I can Thanks for reading
  • Skip
    Gutierezz is such a joke. Almost all of his articles always take jabs at the Niners organization. I wouldn't listen to anything he has to say.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 11:14 AM
  • football fan
    another pointless article. It's clearly obvious that Kelly wants to work with Kap and have him stay with the team. His MAIN reason for taking this job. Stop acting like Kap can'[t play in the NFL, he's proven, although he's had a couple of bad years, he is good enough to be successful in the NFL or he wouldn't be there. Kelly has confirmed today at the combine that he wants Kap and Kap wants to be in S.F. Just stop all the negative crap and let's wait and see how it all plays out. Nobody knows what's going to happen in camp and who will be the starter.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 10:59 AM
  • Nate
    Why would any team trade for a player with his salary. That lost a competition to a bunch of stop gap qbs? Why wouldn't they just wait for him to be cut & sign him for alot less and keep their 6th round pick? For any player in any sport to be tradable their cap number has to be around at or below their worth on the open market.Is Kap's wouldn't we have to pay a large portion it? My last question is Kap a viable option to start anywhere but here especially once camp starts.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 10:42 AM
  • David
    To many experts....if you all know this for sure then tell me the lottery numbers for Friday!
    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:54 AM
  • scott
    Could be because Gutierrez's hates SF. He was an Oakland sports writer before ESPN. If I'm wrong I apologize, though you may mention some of the reason he struggled, along with his inability to read D's under center. He is not a pocket passer we all knew that when they drafted him.
    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:42 AM
    Response: It's funny, I've written hundreds of articles about the 49ers and the only time people come after me is if it's about Kaepernick. I can't remember a more polarizing player.
  • Joseph
    I know y'all just want something to write about but damn who cares if he is on the team or not ! I absolutely hope he gets a second shot and believe that it can happen but seriously I'm die hard and will root for my team no matter what ! I excited that they will compete that's what makes players greater and causes growth ! It does damage to just give a player a position and there is no growth ! Let them compete no matter what the cost ! We got good cap space anyways !
    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:39 AM
  • Steven G
    I thought his total cost was $15.9 million (per Spotrac). That's the number that was reported there and here on this site. Is it actually $16.8 million?!
    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:23 AM
    Response: I originally had at as 15.9 too but ESPN had it at 16.8 so I went with that source (or if you ask Scott, I copied). I'll search for clarification on it though when I can
  • Scott
    So you read Paul Gutierrez's article and decided to just word it a little differently. Nice journalism. Just like him you didn't mention the pathetic O-line or the fact the coaches were a totally joke. How many games did we win after benching Kaep ???
    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:13 AM
    Response: This wasn't a commentary on Kaepernick's performance. Why would I bring up any of those things?
  • Tom Cox
    You are Right Al, There is no Guarantee that Colin will be on the Roster after April 1st, It sounded like a lot of G.M. Speak to me, Trent Baalke needs an out of the Kaepernick situation, I also believe that the Niner brass are wanting to get something in Return, A Trade makes most sense, Gabbert is only making $ 2 Million this season, They are not going to keep Kaepernick with his salary counting up to $ 16.8 Million on the Cap, As for this Long Time fan, I am okay with that, Time to Move on!
    Feb 25, 2016 at 8:57 AM

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