San Francisco 49ers dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick figured to see his stock rise with Chip Kelly in the fold as the franchise's new head coach, but the enigmatic signal-caller reportedly has his eyes on another starting job.
According to a Tuesday report by the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta, Kaepernick wants to escape the Bay Area this offseason, and "the [New York] Jets are his preferred destination, according to sources."
Citing sources, Mehta added, "The Jets, aware of Kaepernick's desire to play for them, are intrigued but still in the early stages of their offseason planning and evaluation." Mehta noted the team is "deathly afraid of tampering" after the NFL hit it with a $100,000 fine following owner Woody Johnson's comments about cornerback Darrelle Revis in April, when he was still with the New England Patriots.
Of course, this is a complex situation, as the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami noted:
Two things have remained true for months: 1) There will be a demand for Kaepernick and 2) He has learned not to trust 49ers mgmt.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) February 2, 2016
Kaepernick is signed to a six-year, $114 million contract with the 49ers, so a move to the Jets would need to be facilitated via his release or a trade. San Francisco, however, can cut Kaepernick before April 1 and save $8.5 million on his $15.9 million cap hit for next season. If the 49ers don't cut him by April 1, his $11.9 million base salary will become fully guaranteed, per Spotrac.
There's also the matter of incumbent New York starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's coming off a career year and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
During a January appearance on WFAN's Boomer and Carton radio show (via NJ Advance Media's Dom Cosentino), Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan indicated Gang Green was interested in discussing a new contract with Fitzpatrick.
"We're going to talk to Ryan's people here in the very near future," Maccagnan said. "We have time, obviously, before free agency, and we really would like to get Ryan back in the fold. [Head coach] Todd [Bowles] has said that. Obviously, myself and the rest of the organization feel very strongly about this."
While Kaepernick was banged up in 2015 with knee, thumb and shoulder injuries that required surgery, Fitzpatrick thrived to the tune of a career-high 3,905 yards and 31 touchdown passes while getting sacked on a league-low 3.3 percent of his pass attempts, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Fitzpatrick, however, will turn 34 next season and may not be a sustainable long-term solution for the Jets.
In that regard, Kaepernick is an intriguing option based on his athleticism alone. A fair share of zone-read quarterbacks have had success in the NFL, and Kaepernick could thrive with a fresh start that frees him from the 49ers front office.
That said, the possibility also exists for Kelly to maximize Kaepernick's explosive playmaking abilities in Kelly's trademark uptempo offense, which seems like it's tailored to the 28-year-old's versatile skill set.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.