On Monday, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said that quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s contract would not factor into the team’s decision about who will start at quarterback against the Bills this Sunday.
That didn’t stop a question about Kaepernick’s contract from being asked when Kelly announced that Kaepernick will get the start. Word last week was that the 49ers were talking to Kaepernick about a restructured contract that would remove injury guarantees from his $14.5 million salary for next season, something that would seem to make it likelier that they’d play him ahead of Blaine Gabbert. Kelly reiterated that football was the only reason the move was being made now.
“I don’t deal with contracts,” Kelly said. “It’s got nothing to do with his contract. Football decision. I’ve never discussed his contract nor will I ever discuss his contract.”
Kelly said that he made the announcement now to give Kaepernick as much time as possible with the first team during practice this week. Gabbert will move to the No. 2 spot and Christian Ponder remains the third-string quarterback for an offense that Kelly said needs to improve beyond the quarterback position.
“We’ve had a couple of days to digest everything from where we are, and I think offensively we need to be better and just make a move,” Kelly said. “It’s not Blaine’s fault. I think as a group, offensively, we need to be better in a lot of ways.”
Better quarterback play can help lift other spots, although it remains to be seen whether Kaepernick can provide it almost a year after he last started an NFL game.