April 1 arrives next Friday, and with it the 2016 base salary owed by the 49ers to quarterback Colin Kaepernick ($11.9 million) becomes fully guaranteed. The 49ers will avoid that obligation only by trading or cutting him by 4:00 p.m. ET on March 31.
If the 49ers truly want to move on — and the truth is always elusive in situations like this — they need to make a move by April 1. Otherwise, Kaepernick will have plenty of leverage when it comes to dictating the terms of any post-April 1 trade.
With the Browns signing Robert Griffin III, they’re undoubtedly out of the Kaepernick sweepstakes, even though the Browns reportedly were willing to give up a third-round pick to get him as of a week or so ago. The Jets reportedly are out of the Kaepernick chase, too (if they were ever even in it), which narrows the field to the 49ers, the Broncos, and anyone else who may be lurking in the weeds in need of a quarterback or otherwise intrigued by the possibility of getting Kaepernick back to where he was in 2012.
Despite the lack of sufficient competent starting quarterbacks, most seats at the top of the various NFL depth charts are full. The Rams still have question marks at the position, although intra-division trades can always be a little tricky. Beyond L.A. and Denver, there are few obvious potential landing spots, if the Browns and Jets are indeed out of the picture.
The picture will have more clarity a week from now, when the key date in Kaepernick’s contract arrives. Even after April 1, a trade isn’t out of the question, if the 49ers keep Kaepernick despite seeing his earnings for 2016 become fully guaranteed.