And as the San Francisco 49ers opened their offseason program Monday, Kaepernick was in attendance for a team meeting and thus, still a 49ers quarterback. So, while the Broncos' pursuit of Kaepernick is real and has advanced well beyond trade-rumor status, it's clear the Broncos get more leverage in this if they continue to show patience.
It is still an acquisition that has plenty of hurdles between where things stand right now and Kaepernick actually showing up at the Broncos’ suburban Denver complex. Hurdles such as:
Money: The Broncos, according to the NFL Players Association, have $1.62 million worth of salary cap space. Kaepernick’s $11.9 million base salary for the 2016 season is guaranteed no matter where he is and what uniform he wears. Kaepernick wants to be shown how he will receive that $11.9 million. The Broncos, who would have to tweak a deal or two of players on their current roster as well as make a roster move or two to add Kaepernick, want the 49ers to pick up $4.9 million of it in a trade. The 49ers, to this point, have declined. So, Kaepernick went to work Monday to the 49ers’ Santa Clara, California, facility.
Money II: Guaranteed money is just that – guar-an-teed. Few, if any, players are going to have the inclination to surrender dollars that are, even if they do nothing, guaranteed to be in their bank accounts. And in a league where teams release players all of the time with years remaining on their contracts or demand players take pay cuts with the threat of being released if they don’t, Kaepernick really has no compelling reason to surrender money that’s already his other than if he simply wanted to escape the 49ers that badly. So, the longer the Broncos wait, the closer Kaepernick gets to having to stay with a team that has both benched and shopped him.
Money III: The 49ers are paying Kaepernick some, or all, of that $11.9 million no matter what happens. So, the wait-and-see mode the Broncos have shifted into rests on that fact. Sure, the 49ers would like the best draft pick possible in a trade and they’d like to have to pick up as little of the $11.9 million as possible in a trade. But the fact is if they keep Kaepernick, they pay the $11.9 million. If they release Kaepernick and then he signs with the Broncos, or somebody else, the 49ers are picking up the difference between what Kaepernick’s salary is for 2016 and $11.9 million. So, in the end, $4.9 million might be the best they can do. If they come to that conclusion then a trade gets done.
Money IV: While most of the discussion in the Kaepernick trade has centered around the 2016 portion of the contract, the Broncos aren’t going to want to have the final four years of the deal on the books either with salary cap figures of $19.366 million in ’17, $19.866 million in ’18, $19.2 million in ’19 and $21.4 million in ’20. The 2017 base salary of $14.5 million is guaranteed on April 1, 2017, and $5.2 million of his $15 million base salary is guaranteed on April 1, 2018. And the Broncos, after all, are the team that went to Peyton Manning for a pay cut after a 39-touchdown season, so the rest of Kaepernick's deal is not really in their wheelhouse either.
Time: The 49ers are already into their offseason program while the Broncos open theirs April 18. Mark Sanchez, already well-versed in the Broncos’ offensive terminology and playbook, is throwing to teammates in California – they were set for a field trip to Von Miller’s “Dancing with the Stars’’ appearance Monday night. The clock is ticking on all this for Kaepernick, who is also coming off three surgeries, to be able to compete for the starting job like a guy the Broncos would be willing to pay $7 million for next season. The draft is at the end of the month and the Broncos begin their organized team activities (OTAs), when they can do 11-on-11 on-field work, in May. If you're Kaepernick and you don't get into the team's meetings before OTAs, your chances of winning the job take a significant hit.
Put it all together and the bottom line is eventually the money issues, most notably the idea the 49ers have to pay $11.9 million to Kaepernick no matter what, will create a deadline. The 49ers have entertained offers for Kaepernick because they benched him last season and things have soured. The longer the Broncos wait, the more leverage the Broncos get because Kaepernick doesn’t want to be in San Francisco and the team has already shown they’d be more than willing to live without him.