The San Francisco 49ers can now start Colin Kaepernick at quarterback without the background worry of a costly injury.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 49ers agreed on Wednesday to a restructured contract with Kaepernick, who will no longer have injury guarantees tied into his deal for the 2017 season and beyond. His new contract will also have a player option available for the next season, making it possible for Kaepernick to void the deal and become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
The 49ers announced this week that Kaepernick would start over Blaine Gabbert in Week 6.
Getting a restructured deal done before his first starts means no concerns about the ramifications of a serious injury.
Without a restructure, the 49ers could have been locked into Kaepernick’s $14.5 million salary next season by a major injury to the quarterback. San Francisco would never admit it publicly, but it seems clear now that the injury worry played a factor in head coach Chip Kelly waiting five games to make a change at quarterback.
A season ago, the Washington Redskins stashed quarterback Robert Griffin III on the bench for the same monetary reasons.
Now, both Kaepernick and the 49ers can move on without any strings attached.
According to Schefter, Kaepernick’s player option in 2017 includes a $16.5 million salary. However, he has no guaranteed money tied to next season, which means the 49ers can cut him after the season without a salary cap penalty.
In other words, Kaepernick needs a strong rest of the year to provide incentive to the 49ers to keep him around for the 2017 season. But even if Kaepernick plays well over the rest of the 2016 season, he might still decide to void his player option and test his value in the open market.
The contract resolution appears to be a win for both sides. Kaepernick gets to play now, with the option of leaving next offseason. And the 49ers get to make a quarterback switch without the worry of 2017 injury guarantees.