It does not mean Kaepernick will be the Niners' starting quarterback come September, let alone still on the roster this summer.
Because remember, for the 49ers to do their due diligence with their one-time franchise QB, he has to be able to at least talk some football with new coach Chip Kelly, and that cannot happen until April 4... three days after $11.9 million of Kaepernick’s salary becomes guaranteed.
And, remember, Kaepernick is still recuperating from three surgeries -- left (non-throwing) shoulder, right thumb, left knee -- so it’s hard to see him being able to pass a physical by then.
Still, if Kaepernick does want to move on from the franchise that drafted him out of UNR in the second round of the 2011 draft, it does behoove him to be healthy enough to pass a physical once the league year begins on March 9.
Teams interested enough in trading for him would seemingly want a clean bill of health, and the Niners' general manager saying he expects Kaepernick on his roster on April Fool’s Day would seemingly only make the dual-threat quarterback more appealing, if less affordable. And why would Baalke want to show his hand and lower Kaepernick’s value by saying he was done with him while also putting the 49ers at a competitive disadvantage by letting 31 other teams know the Niners, who hold the No. 7 overall pick, needed a quarterback in the draft?
As of now, Kaepernick’s $16.8 million cap value for 2016 ranks 16th-highest among quarterbacks.
And Baalke not committing to Kaepernick, or Blaine Gabbert, as the starter under new coach Chip Kelly underscores this point.
“I think the good thing is we’ve got two guys that have gone into games who’ve proven they can play, and Colin’s done some awful good things through his career, won some big games for the San Francisco 49ers and we expect him to come back,” Baalke said. “The main focus right now is health, getting him healthy. He’s done a good job with his rehab. Talking to the medical staff, that seems to be going very well, and (we) just look forward to getting him back and getting him working with this coaching staff.”
Under a familiar coaching staff -- with Jim Tomsula as head coach and Geep Chryst promoted from QB coach to offensive coordinator -- Kaepernick had a nightmare season, going 2-6 before being benched with 1,615 yards passing, six touchdown passes, five interceptions and a career-low Total QBR of 47.1, ranking 27th in QBR among those with at least 300 action plays, per ESPN Stats & Info.
In fact, Kaepernick’s Total QBR has dropped each season since he replaced Alex Smith as the starter in 2012.
Kaepernick did not throw a TD pass in three games against NFC West opponents last season, though he did throw a pair of pick-sixes at the Arizona Cardinals. His play inside the pocket regressed in shocking numbers as his Total QBR of 39.0 was the second-worst in the league and his sack percentage of 10.1 percent in the pocket was the highest such rate.
So while many see Kelly as “fixing” Kaepernick -- Kelly ran the most zone-read option plays in the NFL in his three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and Kaepernick’s 6.1 yards per rush average on 14 zone-read option runs last season was the fifth-best rate of any player with at least 10 such runs -- Kelly was lukewarm on him in his introductory media conference.
Plus, Baalke is keeping his options open, as he should.
“We feel pretty good with the guys we have but we’re always looking,” Baalke said. “We’re always looking, and we’re certainly going to scour this draft and the free-agent market that’s out there. There’s obviously not a lot of quarterbacks that make it to free agency, as we know, but we’re going to look at every avenue.”
Yes, before and after April 1.