Report: 49ers, Kaepernick closing in on restructured contract

Report: 49ers, Kaepernick closing in on restructured contract

The 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick are reportedly working on a restructured contract designed to alleviate concerns for both sides.

The NFL Network reported on Friday the 49ers and Kaepernick are “closing in” on a contract. The deal could eliminate the huge financial concerns for the 49ers in the event Kaepernick sustains a severe injury. It would also give him the freedom to leave the 49ers after this season.

A source told CSNBayArea.com that there is work to be done before the sides agree on a deal that would erase the injury guarantee from Kaepernick's contract and potentially make him a free agent in the spring.

Under terms of the original contract, the 49ers would be liable for Kaepernick’s entire $14.5 million base salary for 2017 if he sustains an injury and is unable to pass a physical on April 1, 2017.

In return, the 49ers would be expected to void the final four years of Kaepernick’s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent and eligible to sign with any team upon the opening of the new league year in March 2017.

Kaepernick signed his six-year, $115 million extension in June 2014, following his first full season as the team’s starter.

Coach Chip Kelly on Thursday and Friday said general manager Trent Baalke has no influence into coaching staff’s decisions on how players are used. Kelly said Kaepernick’s contract status has not been a reason he has remained as the team's backup quarterback.

“I played him in the first game,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “Right? So that answers that question.”

Kaepernick has suited up as the 49ers’ No. 2 quarterback behind Blaine Gabbert for each of the 49ers’ first five games. Kaepernick played three snaps in the season-opening game against the Los Angeles Rams. He did not attempt a pass.

Kaepernick and his representation requested permission to seek a trade from the 49ers in the offseason. The 49ers granted permission. The 49ers and the Denver Broncos appeared to have a deal in place, contingent on Kaepernick and the Broncos working out a new contract.

The Broncos offered Kaepernick a deal for 2016 that was worth $7 million in base salary, according to sources. But Kaepernick, who was already guaranteed $11.9 million from the 49ers, due to an injury guarantee, did not accept the pay cut. The 49ers declined to make up the difference.

Kaepernick could be in the mix to return as the team's starting lineup despite Kelly saying that Gabbert has outperformed him in practices.

Kelly said he has not yet held discussions with the coaching staff about the team’s plan at quarterback for the 49ers’ next game, Sunday, Oct. 16, against the Buffalo Bills. The players are off until Tuesday after a poor showing in the 49ers’ 33-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.

Gabbert ranks among the bottom in nearly every statistical category. The 49ers average a league-worst 170 yards passing per game. Gabbert has completed 58 percent of his pass attempts with five touchdowns and six interceptions and a lowly 69.9 passer rating.

Kelly has cited Kaepernick's loss of weight and strength as reasons he has not been the same player he was in 2013. Kaepernick underwent surgeries on his shoulder, knee and thumb and lost considerable weight in the offseason. Kelly estimated that Kaepernick is approximately 10 pounds under his target weight of 225 pounds.

49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future


49ers set aside cap space with an eye to the future

The first wave of free agency is over, and the 49ers struck quickly.

The club identified two players coach Kyle Shanahan tabbed as fits for his offense and they paid the money it took to get them.

General manager John Lynch said there were five teams seriously interested in free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon. Even more teams were going after center Weston Richburg, he said.

That drove up the prices on McKinnon and Richburg to the point that they rank behind only quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($37 million) as taking up the most cap space among the 72 players currently under contract to the 49ers.

McKinnon and Richburg account for $10.5 million and $9.26 million, respectively, on the 49ers' salary cap. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman's deal takes up $6.175 million on the 49ers' cap this season.

The big spending to attract free agents to the team is likely over. The 49ers have $45.1 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. That figure does not include a projected $8.3 million to sign their 2018 rookie class, according to overthecap.com.

The major spending for this offseason is over because the 49ers have apparently looked to the future and set aside cap space with the idea of retaining some of their own players whose contracts are winding down.

The first decisions for the future must occur by May 3, the deadline for picking up the fifth-year options on first-round picks from the 2015 draft. The 49ers have decisions to make on defensive lineman Arik Armstread and left guard Laken Tomlinson, who was acquired from Detroit in a trade just prior to the start of the 2017 regular season.

It is still unclear how or if Armstead’s skills fit into the 49ers’ defense. He opened last season at the team's pass-rush end before moving to the "big end," which also appears to be first-round pick Solomon Thomas' best position.

Tomlinson showed reasons for the 49ers to be optimistic about his future as his play got better as he acclimated to the offense. Among the guards already on the 49ers’ roster, Tomlinson appears to be the most likely to be a starter in 2018.

Presumptive starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. Ward’s fifth-year option deal of one-year, $8.526 million became fully guaranteed last Wednesday. But in order for the 49ers to make a multi-year commitment, Ward would likely have to prove he can remain healthy and available for a full season.

DeForest Buckner is likely the target for the next blockbuster contract extension. Buckner has emerged as one of the top young defensive linemen in the league. Next offseason will be the first time the 49ers are permitted to negotiate a multi-year extension with him.

With a scarcity of offensive linemen available in the draft and free agency, right tackle Trent Brown could be set to cash in with an enormous deal next offseason – either with the 49ers or some other team.

DL Arik Armstead
FS Jimmie Ward
SS Jaquiski Tartt
RT Trent Brown
LB Eli Harold
LG Laken Tomlinson
K Robbie Gould
P Bradley Pinion

DL DeForest Buckner
LT Joe Staley
OG Joshua Garnett
DL Ronald Blair
TE Garrett Celek
RB Matt Breida (RFA)
WR Kendrick Bourne (RFA)

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”