Colin Kaepernick Officially Opts out of 49ers Contract

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2017

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of their NFL football game at Levi's Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has opted out of the final season of his contract with the organization in order to become an unrestricted free agent, the 49ers announced Friday.

Ian Rapoport‏ of the NFL Network reported Wednesday the quarterback's representatives, Jeff Nalley and Sean Kiernan, passed along word of the decision to all 32 teams on Tuesday. Nick Wagoner of ESPN confirmed the news via Caplan.

His exit will save the front office $14.5 million in base salary based on what he would have earned through the restructured contract he signed last year, according to Wagoner. Spotrac noted a $4.9 million dead cap hit remains due to his signing bonus, though.

Kaepernick enjoyed a solid 2016 campaign with the Niners after taking over the reins of the offense from Blaine Gabbert after the first month. He completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,241 yards to go along with 16 passing touchdowns and just four interceptions in 12 games.

The 29-year-old Nevada product finished 17th in passer rating, beating out the likes of Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning. He also added 468 yards and two TDs on the ground.

In addition to his solid play, the Wisconsin native spent most of the season in the headlines for his decision to kneel during the United States national anthem. He explained the choice, which drew both praise and criticism, to Steve Wyche of NFL.com back in August.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

He became a lightning rod of attention for the first few months of the situation, and other athletes from across the sports spectrum joined him in the protest. The issue faded over time, however, though he's backed up his words by working to donate $1 million to causes aiding communities.

It's not something that should impact the level of interest he receives as a free agent. Furthermore, he's picked a good time to hit the open market. The demand for quarterbacks remains sky high around the league, but the number of available options continues to dwindle.

Along with a mediocre draft class at the marquee position, the Washington Redskins announced Kirk Cousins received the exclusive franchise tag Tuesday, and Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Wednesday the New England Patriots are planning to keep Jimmy Garoppolo.

Looking ahead, if the Buffalo Bills ultimately decide to exercise the option in Tyrod Taylor's contract, Kaepernick could emerge as the most coveted quarterback available this offseason. He may not be a legitimate long-term answer, but he could be a solid short-term solution.

The New York Jets, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams are just a handful of teams that could look to upgrade at the position before the 2017 season.