Three teams, all in the AFC, have expressed interest in trading for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, according to league sources.
They are the Broncos, who lost two starting quarterbacks this week, Browns and Jets. Cleveland is expected to part ways with troubled Johnny Manziel soon, and New York is trying to re-sign their 2015 starter, free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Jets’ interest in Kaepernick may be based on leveraging Fitzpatrick, and the NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported the Browns are “far more serious” than New York. Hue Jackson, Cleveland’s new coach, has long admired Kaepernick. Three years ago, Jackson rated Kaepernick as the best quarterback in the 2011 draft, which included 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton.
Denver, however, is believed to be the front-runner for the former 49ers starter. One of its 2015 starters, Peyton Manning, retired Monday, and the other, Brock Osweiler, agreed to a contract with the Houston Texans. The only quarterback on the Broncos’ roster is Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round draft pick last year.
Kaepernick visited Denver before the 2011 draft, and the 49ers traded with the Broncos in the second round that year to select him. In Denver, Kaepernick would join two former Nevada teammates, tight end Virgil Green and linebacker Brandon Marshall.
Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl a year after he was drafted but struggled in 2015. After eight games, he was replaced by Blaine Gabbert, now the favorite to begin the 2016 season as the starter.
While Kaepernick completed a career-low 59.0 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions, Gabbert connected on 63.1 percent with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his eight starts.
After Kaepernick was benched, he revealed the wear and tear from being the most prolific running quarterback in the NFL the past three seasons. He recently had surgeries to repair a tear in his left labrum (shoulder) and a torn ligament in his right thumb and to remove “floating bodies” in his left knee. The procedures were performed in Vail, Colo., not at 49ers-affiliated Stanford Hospital, one of several signs Kaepernick had become estranged from the team.
Despite that, the 49ers have said they are willing to keep Kaepernick this season. They have plenty of salary cap space and see his 2016 contract – he’s due to earn $11.9 million on April 1 – as affordable.
The 49ers are eager to see if new coach Chip Kelly can get Kaepernick’s career back on track but are willing to deal Kaepernick for the right price.
Silver reported the compensation being discussed is a second- or third-round draft pick. The Broncos, given their low draft pick, might be in the best position to give up a second. They have the 63rd overall pick, the Browns have the 32nd, and the Jets have the 51st.
Kaepernick also is believed to be willing to restructure his contract to facilitate a trade. However, his agents, who asked for permission to seek a trade late last month, are not part of trade discussions, which are being handled by 49ers executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe.
If the 49ers trade Kaepernick, it will clear $8.5 million from their salary cap. The team is believed to be about $55 million under the cap.
49ers sign quarterback – The news is unlikely to trigger a flurry of season-ticket sales, but the 49ers signed their first outside free agent Thursday: former Eagles quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
Lewis, 28, Cowboys free-agent running back Lance Dunbar and Cardinals free-agent guard Ted Larsen visited the 49ers on Thursday, the second day teams have been able to sign outside players.
The list of obscure names confirms that general manager Trent Baalke is sticking to his policy of treading lightly in free agency despite a roster that’s lacking talent in key areas and abundant salary cap space.
On Wednesday, the 49ers locked up some of their own free agents, including nose tackle Ian Williams, who agreed to a five-year deal worth more than $5 million per season. They also tendered linebacker Michael Wilhoite and guard Jordan Devey.
Lewis didn’t take a snap last year for Philadelphia, but he gives Kelly and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day someone familiar with their system, which should be valuable early in the preseason. Lewis, who played at Duke, entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He’s been on the Rams’, Browns’, Bills’ and Texans’ rosters, and he started five games for Buffalo in 2013.
The 49ers now have four quarterbacks signed for 2016. The others are Kaepernick, Gabbert and Dylan Thompson.