SANTA CLARA –- Colin Kaepernick is still not cleared to practice, but he is not falling behind in the quarterback competition, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said on Tuesday.
“He’s great in the classroom,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “He’s got a great grasp of what we’re doing. I’m really impressed by both Blaine (Gabbert) and him and their intelligence and being able to pick up what we’re trying to do.
“So there’s no ‘fall behind’ because there’s no behind. There’s not a race. The first day we’re able to against defenses is today. We’re not naming the starting lineup for the Rams game today.”
The 49ers have their first practice of organized team activities scheduled on Tuesday, beginning at 10:40am.
[RELATED: Chip Kelly: 49ers' starting QB? 'I have no idea']
The 49ers’ OTA workouts are scheduled for three days each week for the next three weeks. Then, the official offseason program concludes with the team’s mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 7-9.
Training camp is scheduled to begin in late-July to lead up to the 49ers’ season opener on Sept. 12 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Kaepernick and Gabbert are expected to compete for the starting job, and Kelly said he has not set a date by which he wants to make a decision before the start of the regular season.
“I don’t have a timetable,” Kelly said. “You can’t put a timetable on it. It has to express itself and let it happen organically. That’s the only way it can happen. I’ve been involved in every level of quarterback battles. Just like battles at every other position, it’s going to be won on the field. It can’t be won because we have a timetable that has to be set by May 17th or May 18th.”
Kaepernick continues to rehab from surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee. His only throwing has been done with athletic trainers during his rehab, Kelly said.
George Kittle, entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract, is in line for a big payday when he eventually signs a contract extension with the 49ers. But the tight end reportedly is one of a handful of players expected to reset the market at the positon this offseason.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that "[multiple] sources around the [NFL]" think Kittle, Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (a pending free agent) and Philadelphia Eagles star Zach Ertz (one year, $6.4 million left on his contract) are set to "redefine the value" with big paydays this summer.
Kittle set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end last year, and he leads the 49ers with 60 receptions for 754 yards. He is in the top five among tight ends in both categories, despite missing two games with -- and subsequently playing through -- a serious ankle injury.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph ($9.35 million) was the highest-paid player at the position not on a rookie deal this season, and Kittle's reported likelihood to set precedent for tight ends drives home the 49ers' financial realities this offseason. DeForest Buckner is also eligible for an extension, while breakout defensive tackle Arik Armstead is eligible for free agency.
[RELATED: NFL coach still not sold on 49ers' Jimmy G in long term]
Over The Cap projects the 49ers having just over $24 million in salary-cap space next season, which would make it difficult to extend all three players, especially if the final year Kittle's -- and/or Buckner's -- deal is restructured. The 49ers can free up space by cutting players such as running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, and NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco wrote Saturday that he can't see McKinnon playing on his 49ers deal as is in 2020 or Goodwin playing for San Francisco at all.
The 49ers likely will prioritize re-signing Kittle and Buckner. Based on Kittle's career and Schefter's reporting, they know the tight end won't come cheap.
Jimmy Garoppolo balled out in the 49ers' thrilling 48-46 win over the Saints last Sunday.
For the third time this season, Garoppolo threw four touchdown passes in a game.
In guiding the 49ers to an NFC-best 11-2 record, Garoppolo has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 3,245 yards. He's thrown 25 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions this season.
While Garoppolo's not in the MVP conversation, he's putting up solid numbers as the 49ers continue to rack up wins. But there is one anonymous NFC offensive coach that still hasn't quite bought into Garoppolo.
"I don’t think he can do it consistently, but he did it today," the coach told The Athletic's Mike Sando after the 49ers beat the Saints. "[Drew] Brees moved down the field and scored. That is what you expect. I didn’t know that Garoppolo would be able to do it, but he did it."
Sando noted that in his annual Quarterback Tiers survey, the coach in question had Garoppolo on the second tier in 2017. Last season, after Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in Week 3, the coach moved Garoppolo down to the third tier of NFL quarterbacks.
Whether or not Garoppolo is an elite quarterback is up for debate. NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms feels the 49ers quarterback is "really good," but doesn't consider him elite. But what is for certain is that Garoppolo is not a "third tier" quarterback. He doesn't have the gaudy numbers like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson or Lamar Jackson, but Garoppolo has a 19-4 career record as a starter in the NFL. That can't be ignored.
[RELATED: Five 49ers to watch vs. Falcons]
Garoppolo will have another chance to impress the offensive coach Sunday when the 49ers host the Falcons at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.