Despite two bad seasons and a benching in favor of a first-round bust, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a hot commodity on the trade market. The Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns have both been linked to Kaepernick, with the former two teams having reportedly agreed to San Francisco's compensation for a potential trade.
But both the Broncos and the Browns want to restructure Kaepernick's contract before acquiring him in a trade. Kaepernick has a very team-friendly deal in that it contains an out for whichever team holds the contract before every season on the deal, but he does come with a high cap hit.
For next season, Kaepernick has a base salary of $11.9 million, which becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. Even if the 49ers trade him, they will have a significant dead cap hit though keeping him also remains an option.
It can't be overstated how much Kaepernick regressed last season, but it's also worth remembering that he started in a Super Bowl. He was named alongside players like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson as the future of the quarterback position. There being interest in tapping into that potential isn't surprising in the least.
But what situation would be best for Kaepernick, and therefore mutually beneficial for the teams interested? Where would he have the best shot at flourishing? We'll take a look at the possible destinations below.
Surely the defending Super Bowl champions are a great landing place for a player like Kaepernick, right? Well, that could be the case, but the Broncos of 2016 are going to look a lot different than the Broncos of 2015 regardless of the changes at quarterback. They've lost Danny Trevathan, Malik Jackson and plenty of others. The Broncos went from one of the top offensive teams in the league in 2014 to being the best defensive team with a mediocre offense.
Now predictions are all across the board, and whoever is under center for Denver next season can't rely on them having the league's best defense to bail them out. But the coaching staff in Denver is strong, John Elway would be a great person to be around for someone like Kaepernick and, of course, having someone like Demaryius Thomas to throw to can't hurt.
The Broncos want to get back to throwing the football, and even with the big changes this offseason, they're still a very complete team. Keapernick could find success under Gary Kubiak, and given that Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian are the other quarterbacks on the roster, he'd likely be the starter from the onset and wouldn't have to worry about a battle for the starting job. Denver looks like an incredibly well-run organization under Elway, and that might just present the best opportunity for Kaepernick.
If the Broncos are one of the best-run organizations, then the Browns are the complete opposite. The ownership has changed recently, the front office is constantly shifting, the coaching staff is in constant rotation and the chain of command seems completely random at times. On top of that, the Browns let several starters leave in free agency, including safety Tashaun Gipson, receiver Travis Benjamin, offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Alex Mack.
Those departures could be catastrophic, and it's bad news for someone like Kaepernick that two above average starting offensive linemen are out the door. Kaepernick was just in the middle of a complete dumpster fire that was the departure of Jim Harbaugh and the hiring of Jim Tomsula by the 49ers. He doesn't need to join a Browns team which earnestly saw Josh McCown as a potential savior at one point last season.
San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick may be disillusioned with the 49ers, a team that gave him a big contract then shook up a good thing by firing a successful head coach before benching him, but it still might be a decent destination for him. The 49ers have some talent at receiver with Torrey Smith and could bring Anquan Boldin back next year, a starting running back with a lot of potential in Carlos Hyde and a head coach whose offense could be described as "perfect for Colin Kaepernick when he was good."
Chip Kelly did a lot of things wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles, but without personnel control and some offensive pieces that actually fit his mold already in place, Kaepernick could find success in San Francisco. Kelly's offense plays to Kaepernick's strengths and he might even be the quarterback's best chance of revitalizing his career, even if the 49ers themselves are far from competitive next season.
The big hinderance here is the guy they benched Kaepernick for -- Blaine Gabbert -- is still around, and out-performed him under Jim Tomsula last season. On top of that, the 49ers have said that they want Kaepernick back, but that he'll have to compete with Gabbert for the starting job. That can't be good for his confidence in the organization as a whole.
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There are other potential destinations as well. The New York Jets are in need of a quarterback and have been linked to a potential trade with the 49ers in the past, but reports have suggested they aren't in the current discussions. That could always change though, and any other number of teams looking for help could be persuaded to get in on the discussions. Whatever the case, there is no "perfect" destination for a quarterback that looked as bad as Kaepernick did a season ago. But some are certainly better than others.
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