49ers GM: Team would have released Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick restructured his contract with the team last season. The primary motivation there was for the current free agent to see the field. The restructure enabled San Francisco to get out from under his contract this spring should the team decide to move on from him. It also gave Kaepernick himself an opt-out clause.

Even after putting up 18 total touchdowns and just four interceptions in 10 starts, the much-maligned quarterback did in fact decide to opt out and become a free agent. Many wondered why Kaepernick left nearly $17 million on the table to become a free agent.

While that’s a common question, it was readily apparent that if Kaepernick had not decided to opt out, the 49ers would have simply released him.

First-year general manager John Lynch confirmed that suspicion on Wednesday.

“I think we’ve been very up front with it…Yes, he was not going to be here under the construct of his contract. We gave him the option, ‘You can opt out, we can release you, whatever.’ And he chose to opt out, but that was just a formality,” Lynch said, via Pro Football Talk.

That’s pretty much the gist of it. Kaepernick was not going to be on the 49ers’ roster in 2017 no matter what. None of it had to do with his National Anthem protest and the ensuing backlash behind it. Rather, the decision was based on the quarterback’s 2017 salary and his lack of fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.

“I don’t want to characterize it as he made a decision to leave here. We both sat down and under that current construct of his deal, it was a big number…one thing I think Kyle (Shanahan) was very clear and I think Colin appreciated, is that Kyle has an idea of how he’d play with Colin Kaepernick,” Lynch added. “But he preferred to run the exact offense that he ran in Atlanta last year…if you change it for the quarterback, you change it for everybody on that offense. So he had a great discussion that I think gave Colin clarity, so we moved on.”

Since his decision to opt out, Kaepernick has received very little interest on the free agent market. The Seattle Seahawks had him in for a visit, but a signing doesn’t seem imminent there. After that, there’s absolutely nothing going on.

Surely some team will come calling should an injury occur to another quarterback. But for now, it looks like Kaepernick is in a wait-and-see aspect of free agency. Whether that has more to do with his off-field divisiveness or something else remains the biggest question.

As for the 49ers, they appear ready to go with veteran Brian Hoyer under center for the 2017 NFL season. At the very least, he fits what Shanahan wants to do on offense more than Kaepernick. He also comes in at a much lower price tag.