Kaepernick, who became San Francisco’s starter mid-way through the 2012 season and led them all the way to the Super Bowl, lost his job during the 2015 season to Blaine Gabbert. Now with the Niners undergoing a coaching change for the second straight offseason (now it’s Chip Kelly), the dual-threat quarterback apparently wants a new start elsewhere.
— Eric Belair (@Belairrrr) February 3, 2016
There are two major hurdles that need to be cleared before a Kaepernick-to-the-Jets scenario can happen though.
The first is that he’s still under contract to San Francisco. The 49ers signed Kaepernick—the team’s second-round pick in 2011—to a $114 million contract in 2014 and he still has five years left on it. Of course, like almost all NFL contracts, it’s not all guaranteed money.
Under the terms of that deal, San Francisco has until April 1 to trade or release Kaepernick or else his $11.9 million 2016 salary becomes fully guaranteed—which would be a ridiculous salary for a second-string player, so he may be getting cut in either case. Meanwhile, the Jets must keep their lips sealed as long as he’s under contract to another team, or else risk being charged with tampering for the second straight offseason (Darrelle Revis).
So even if the Jets are interested, Kaepernick couldn’t know.
The second hurdle is Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The journeyman quarterback found a home with the Jets last year and the team—which has been desperate for a good signal caller for years—would be crazy to mess with a good thing. Fitzpatrick posted one of the best seasons in team history last year when he threw for 3,905 yards (second in Jets history), while throwing 31 TDs (first), and posting a quarterback rating of 88.0 (fifth).
But Fitzpatrick is a free agent and while it appears there’s plenty of interest on both sides, you never know what can happen when another team enters the bidding.
The only real negative the Jets would see to keeping Fitzpatrick over Kaepernick is age, as the 49ers embattled quarterback, at 28, is five years younger than the Jets starter.