San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Wednesday that quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be on the team’s roster on April 1, when his $11.9 million base salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed.
Baalke made the announcement at the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Baalke was later asked whether Kaepernick would be the Niners’ starter or if he would have to compete with Blaine Gabbert for the job.
“I think the good thing is we’ve got two guys that have gone into games who’ve proven they can play,” Baalke said, “and Colin’s done some awful good things through his career, won some big games for the San Francisco 49ers and [we] expect him to come back.
“The main focus right now is health, getting him healthy. He’s done a good job with his rehab. Talking to the medical staff, that seems to be going very well, and [we] just look forward to getting him back and getting him working with this coaching staff.”
Kaepernick, 28, is recovering from three surgeries (left shoulder, right thumb, left knee).
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Kaepernick has a salary cap hit of $16.8 million in 2016 — 16th among all quarterbacks, and slightly ahead of the Indianapolis Colts‘ Andrew Luck ($16.2 million).
A clause in the quarterback’s contract allows the 49ers to release him in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before April 1 before any remaining money on his contract that was guaranteed for injury only becomes fully guaranteed.
In 2017, Kaepernick’s base salary of $14.5 million will become guaranteed if he’s still on the roster on April 1, while in 2018, $5.2 million of his $15 million base salary would be fully guaranteed if he’s with the team on April 1.
Kaepernick is under contract through the 2020 season as part of the six-year, $114 million contract he signed in 2014.
In 2016, Kaepernick will be playing for his third head coach since he joined the 49ers in 2011, as former Eagles coach Chip Kelly was hired to replace the fired Jim Tomsula. Kaepernick was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, when Jim Harbaugh was the team’s coach.
His career record as a starter is 27-20 with 56 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions, though he is coming off the worst season of his career having been benched after eight games in favor of Gabbert.
While Kaepernick was 2-6 as the Niners starter last year, Gabbert went 3-5 and had a better completion percentage than Kaepernick (63.1 to 59.0), passed for more yards (2,031 to 1,615), had more touchdown passes (10 to 6), was sacked fewer times (25 to 28) and had a higher per rush average (5.8 to 5.7), though Kaepernick had a better Total QBR (47.1 to 42.6).
Much has been made about new coach Chip Kelly’s lukewarm endorsement of Kaepernick in Kelly’s introductory news conference last month.
Baalke was asked how the dual-threat quarterback might fit in Kelly’s fast-paced offense.
“I think if you look at the quarterbacks that Coach has had, he hasn’t had a bunch of guys that can run, and he’s been able to put together some pretty good offenses with guys that aren’t able to run,” Baalke said. “You get an extra advantage of having a quarterback that can run so I think if you talk to any coordinator they’re going to take that as a positive. But it’s not a necessity.”
Still, Baalke said the Niners were open to adding another quarterback at some point this offseason.
“We feel pretty good with the guys we have but we’re always looking,” he said. “We’re always looking, and we’re certainly going to scour this draft and the free-agent market that’s out there. There’s obviously not a lot of quarterbacks that make it to free agency, as we know, but we’re going to look at every avenue.
“Quarterbacks [of] all shapes and sizes have had success in this league. We’re going to look at every one. We’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves and say they got to be 6-3 or taller, or 6-4 or taller, they’ve got to be 220 [pounds] or bigger. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to look at everybody that’s available and put a value on them for what we think their value is for us.”
ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.