Quarterback Robert Griffin is reportedly heading for free agency on Monday, two days ahead of the opening of the new league year.
Washington will officially release the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year to avoid playing his scheduled salary of $16.2 million for the upcoming season, according to multiple reports.
With plenty of salary-cap space, the 49ers have to consider Griffin as a top option to compete for the team’s starting quarterback job in 2016.
When asked recently at the NFL Scouting Combine whether Griffin would fit into Chip Kelly’s offense, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Griffin would provide Kelly with an element that he has not enjoyed as an NFL coach.
“If you look at the quarterbacks coach has had, he hasn’t had a bunch of guys that can run,” Baalke said. “He’s been able to put together some pretty good offenses with guys that aren’t able to run. You get an extra advantage having a quarterback that can run. If you talk to any coordinator, they’re going to take that as a positive, but it’s not a necessity.”
The 49ers have maintained that Colin Kaepernick fits into the team's plan for the upcoming season, but Kaepernick has other ideas. His representation requested permission to seek a trade. The 49ers still control Kaepernick's rights and have not acted on the request.
The 49ers have time to investigate other options before making a decision on Kaepernick. On April 1, $11.9 million of Kaepernick's scheduled $14.3 million pay for the 2016 season becomes fully guaranteed. The 49ers have some time to add a veteran quarterback before making a decision on Kaepernick.
And Griffin could be a player of interest.
"You’re going to kick the tires of everybody that’s available," Baalke said when asked about Griffin. "To say interested or not, there’s no competitive advantage for me to give that answer."
Griffin’s price tag is likely to be affordable after his epic fall with Washington. He completed 65.8 percent of his pass attempts with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while also rushing for 815 yards as a runaway winner over Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson for the top rookie honor in 2012.
But Griffin sustained a right knee injury late in the season and was still hobbled in the playoffs, where the knee was further damaged. He ultimately sustained two torn knee ligaments and required reconstructive surgery in the offseason. He was never the same.
He and then-coach Mike Shanahan feuded. Griffin was benched. And he did not fare much better under new coach Jay Gruden. Griffin never stepped on the field in 2015. But in his seven starts in 2014, Griffin completed 68.7 percent of his passes.
Kelly often spoke of “repetitive accuracy” as a quarterback trait he values. Griffin is the most accurate passer available on a market that also is set to include Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler and Chase Daniel. Griffin, 26, has completed 63.9 percent of his pass attempts with an interception every 46.2 attempts in his 35-start career.
Last season, Kaepernick completed 59 percent of his passes with an interception every 48.8 attempts. Blaine Gabbert completed 63.1 percent of his attempts with an interception on every 40.3 percent of his throws.
Kelly said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he expects his quarterback to be "a great decision-maker."
“That’s the most critical factor in everything he does," Kelly said. "And I think the ones that are best in this game all come in different shapes and sizes. You can look at Russell Wilson or Tom Brady – one’s 5-10 and the other’s 6-5. But they’re both outstanding decision makers. They don’t put the ball in harm’s way."