With Kaepernick reportedly heading for surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder after being placed on season-ending injured reserve Saturday and language in his contract setting up a potential battle over nearly $12 million, it would certainly seem so.
The Niners will save $875,000 this season by putting Kaepernick on IR for the final seven games (he had roster bonuses of $125,000 per game), but April 1 looms large for the quarterback and team. That's when $11.9 million of his $14.3 million salary for the 2016 season becomes fully guaranteed.
Before April 1, the money is guaranteed only for injury.
If the labrum is completely torn, the question becomes whether he will be able to pass a physical in just over four months. The timetable for recovery from the surgery is generally four to six months. If he is not fully recovered, the Niners would be on the hook for the $11.9 million owed Kaepernick, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.
But look at it from Kaepernick’s perspective.
If indeed he has no future with the 49ers -- the team benched him in favor of Blaine Gabbert -- Kaepernick would want to be as healthy as possible by the start of the new league year on March 9 to make himself an attractive candidate to potential suitors via trade or if he is released.
Still, Kaepernick would have to pass a physical in order for the Niners to cut him. So it behooves Kaepernick to be healthy by March 9, unless he prefers to stick with the Niners at $11.9 million.
There is another avenue, even if it flies on the face of Kaepernick hitting the market at the start of free agency, per Caplan. Because if Kaepernick is not able to pass the physical by April 1, the 49ers could conceivably ask him to delay the physical until he can pass. But if the player were to say no, takes the physical and fails, the team would again be on the hook for the $11.9 million, unless there is language in the contract that gives them more time.
Then there’s this: if the team cuts him (after deeming him healthy, of course) and Kaepernick’s personal doctor says he is not healthy, he could file an injury grievance.
This has the potential to be a messy divorce in Santa Clara.