The NFL is a deadline-driven business. In some cases, however, it’s hard to determine when the deadline really is.
For the potential trade of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the deadline is coming more and more into focus.
Mindi Bach of CSNBayArea.com reports that Kaepernick needs at least one more month to be football ready. Which means that Kaepernick should be ready to participate in Organized Team Activities, which start on May 17.
If, as many believe, the 49ers truly don’t want Kaepernick, they need to move him off the roster before he puts himself at risk of a season-ending injury (like the torn Achilles tendon suffered in an OTA session three years ago by former 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree). If he’s cleared to participate in OTAs as of May 17, that’s when the continuation of the three-way game of chicken between the 49ers, Kaepernick, and the Broncos becomes potentially much more expensive for the 49ers.
If the 49ers cut him before May 17, they’ll pay the balance of what he makes elsewhere in 2016 and his fully-guaranteed base salary of $11.9 million. If he suffers a season-ending injury during offseason workouts, the 49ers will pay the full $11.9 million.
That’s why the Broncos aren’t blinking. The Broncos know that, if the 49ers truly want to move on from Kaepernick (in whole or in part due to the fact that he wants to move on from the 49ers), the 49ers eventually will agree to pay a chunk of his salary in order to facilitate a trade. The only question is whether they’ll pay the full $4.9 million difference between what the Broncos want to pay and what Kaepernick is owed or whether they’ll pay some of it and Kaepernick will give up the rest.
Regardless of how it turns out, don’t expect the Broncos to blink. G.M. John Elway routinely takes a hard line in situations like this, and that new Lombardi Trophy in the lobby has become the ultimate validation of Elway’s approach.
Next, the question becomes whether the 49ers and/or Kaepernick will blink in the middle of May or before the draft, when any picks obtained from the Broncos would be used to make the team better not in 2017 but in 2016.