There are several things we know about the Colin Kaepernick situation at the moment: we know that Kaepernick is willing to restructure his contract and take a pay cut to get out of San Francisco, and we know that the Browns are willing to give up a third-round pick to the 49ers to land Kaepernick (and, because the Browns are picking so high in each round, their third-round selection, No. 65 overall, is very close to being a second-round pick, which is reportedly San Francisco’s asking price for No. 7). Those developments, combined with the recent report that the Browns are currently the team in the driver’s seat in the pursuit of Kaepernick–not to mention Kaepernick’s apparent desire to play for the Browns–suggest that the former Nevada product could be on his way to Cleveland in the near future.
However, as Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee writes, Kaepernick is wary of taking a pay cut to play for the Browns given how much talent the team has lost at the start of free agency. In the past week, Alex Mack has signed with the Falcons, Mitchell Schwartz has signed with the Chiefs, and Travis Benjamin has joined the Chargers (plus, the Browns could always trade Joe Thomas between now and the draft, as Mark Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes). Since Cleveland’s roster was already fairly weak prior to the exodus of some of its best talent, and since the team is prepared to draft a top quarterback prospect with the No. 2 overall pick even if it brings Kaepernick aboard, it is easy to see why Kaepernick, despite his respect for new Browns head coach Hue Jackson, would be hesitant to join Jackson in Cleveland. Barrows notes that, if the Browns had offered the No. 65 overall selection for Kaepernick a week ago, Cleveland may well have a new quarterback at this point, but the early days of free agency have suddenly made that possibility much more uncertain. While the Browns would like to pay Kaepernick like a bridge quarterback–roughly $7MM-$8MM per year, with incentives for games started–they may have to pony up more cash if they still want Kaepernick.
The Broncos, of course, are still a potential landing spot for Kaepernick, and Barrows reports that if Denver came to Kaepernick with the same deal the Browns offered for the quarterback, he’d likely sign it in a second. But the Broncos and the 49ers are still at an impasse in trade talks, as Denver is willing to give up its third-round selection, No. 94 overall, while San Francisco is probably holding out for the Broncos’ No. 63 overall selection. Still, if the Broncos are unable to sign Robert Griffin III or Ryan Fitzpatrick, they may be willing to meet the 49ers’ asking price.
Meanwhile, the Jets are still lurking in the background, and Kaepernick would suddenly become a stronger option for New York if it cannot come to terms with Fitzpatrick, who nearly guided Gang Green to the playoffs in 2015 but who is currently seeking a contract that will pay him $16-$18MM per year. And the 49ers, of course, still control Kaepernick’s contractual rights, and they have repeatedly insisted that they are willing to keep him beyond April 1, when his $11.9 million base salary for 2016 would become fully guaranteed. New head coach Chip Kelly, after all, will install an offense that appears perfect for Kaepernick’s skill-set, and the 49ers certainly have the cap space to retain their once-promising QB. But Kaepernick’s apparent distaste for San Francisco could manifest itself in very uncomfortable ways for the club, which suggests that he will, in fact, have a new home in 2016. Where that home will be, however, remains a mystery as the quarterback carousel rolls on.