The only thing that continues to be clear about the possibility of a Colin Kaepernick trade is that the 49ers are willing to trade him. Coach Chip Kelly underscored that reality, intentionally or not, on Wednesday by addressing Kaepernick’s status for the first time since the Scouting Combine.
“If he’s here on April 4 [at the start of the offseason program] we’re going to coach the heck out of him, and he’s going to work his [tail] off,” Kelly at the San Jose State Pro Day workout, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.
“If” is a far cry from the things Kelly said last month, when he tried to dismiss the possibility that Kaepernick won’t be on the roster on April 1, when his $11.9 million salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed.
“‘Is he on the team? Is he not on the team?’” Kelly said on February 25. “It’s never been a question. I’m excited to work with Colin. I’ve never thought that, ‘Hey, I’m going to go to San Francisco and he’s not going to be there.’ I don’t know why everybody else looks at it that way, either. . . . Kap’s really good. He had the ball on the five yard line, taking the team in to win the Super Bowl. You can just look at the tape and know how talented he is. Our job is acquiring talent, not getting rid of talent.”
At a time when the reports of a possible trade are so rampant that it’s almost become a given that the 49ers are trying to move him, saying “if he’s here on April 4” won’t make anyone believe the 49ers aren’t trying to trade him. The only way to send that message is to say, “We’re absolutely, positively not trading him. And we know you won’t believe me because football teams always misrepresent their intentions for strategic purposes, but you’ll see that we mean it when he’s still on the roster when the season starts, and when the season ends.”
Short of that, a trade to the Broncos or the Browns (or someone else) remains in play, with the 49ers possibly prepared to take the best deal possible the day before his salary becomes guaranteed — especially since the NFL is a deadline-driven business.