Dec 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) rushes for a gain during the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi
With everyone who is anyone fleeing the San Francisco 49ers since the team hired first-time head coach Jim Tomsula and promoted Eric Mangini to defensive coordinator, we can’t help but wonder who will be on the next plane out of the Bay Area.
And if that player happens to be quarterback Colin Kaepernick, should the Cleveland Browns take a look?
Unlike the Browns, where players are allegedly looking for the first plane out of Berea, that is actually happening in San Francisco. Since the end of the 2014 season, the 49ers have:
- Lost head coach Jim Harbaugh to the University of Michigan, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to Chicago, offensive coordinator Greg Roman to Buffalo, and special teams coach Brad Seely to Oakland;
- Seen linebacker Patrick Willis, tackle Anthony Davis, linebacker Chris Borland and defensive end Justin Smith all choose retirement;
- Traded away or lost via free agency wide receiver Michael Crabtree to Oakland, guard Mike Iupati to Arizona, running back Frank Gore to Indianapolis, punter Andy Lee to Cleveland, cornerback Perrish Cox to Tennessee and cornerback Chris Culliver to Washington.
- Hired a quarterback coach who was working at a radio station in Raleigh, N.C.
Got all that?
So when Kaepernick, who will be entering his fifth season in San Francisco this fall, comes to training camp, looks around and sees how far the 49ers have fallen since appearing in the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, would it be so hard to imagine him being the latest 49er to turn his gaze elsewhere?
The 49ers were already in decline before the mass exodus and there is little reason to believe they will be improved with Tomsula and Mangini on the sidelines. Losing Willis and Smith doesn’t help the defense, the wide receiver group is currently topped by 35-year-old Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, and the running game is not going to keep opposing defenses off of Kaepernick.
If Kaepernick decides he wants out, of if the 49ers come to the realization that they are not winning even with Kaepernick under center, why wouldn’t they look to trade him?
If that moment comes, the Browns could be an attractive option for Kaepernick. Consider that:
- The defense, under head coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil is on the rise and is expected to be even better in the second year of O’Neil’s system.
- The running game, with Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Duke Johnson is set up to one of the league’s best.
- The offensive line, already one of the league’s best, added first-round draft pick Cameron Erving, which will only make the unit stronger. That is a big selling point to a quarterback who has been sacked 91 times over the past two seasons.
- While not an all-star cast, the Browns wide receivers are certainly no worse than what Kaepernick will be working with in San Francisco.
- Have, despite what the national media will have you believe, a much-more stable environment than what currently exists in San Francisco.
- Money is not a concern, as the Browns have the salary-cap space to absorb Kaepernick’s contract, which pays him $10.4 million in 2015. The contract also allows Kaepernick’s team to release him prior to April 1 and not owe him any additional money.
So what’s the downside?
For starters, there is no way of knowing if the 49ers would even consider trading Kaepernick or if Kaepernick even wants to leave town. He’s young enough, he won’t turn 28 until November, that he may be OK buying into a rebuilding project.
There is also the question of just how good Kaepernick really is. He had a great run during the 49ers Super Bowl season, but since then how he hasn’t exactly taken over the NFL. He interceptions have gone up while his average yards per attempt have gone done.
However, he is still a threat to run (averaging six yards per rush) and with a better offensive line can run by design rather than out of necessity.
We would have to assume that the 49ers would want a lot in return for Kaepernick, and even if the Browns were generous enough to throw Johnny Manziel into the deal, it may not be in the club’s best interest to get into a bidding war for Kaepernick.
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And, let’s not forget, the Browns do already have Josh McCown at quarterback.
“Until you feel you’ve found what you would call a long-term solution [at quarterback], I don’t think we could have done any better than bringing in a guy like Josh McCown,” Pettine said over the weekend in published reports. “To me, time will tell, but there’s so much that he does behind the scenes that people just can’t appreciate from everything you talk about — leadership, all the intangible stuff. He’s truly a team guy. He’s all about winning football games.
“It’s like having another coach on the field, and it’s all genuine. That’s the thing you like the most. Despite his age, people that have been at practice agree, he can still spin it. We didn’t just look to bring in a guy who was just going to be a mentor. We wanted a guy who we think can still play a little bit if you put him in the right circumstances. He’s been more than advertised.”
OK, we may have been being a wee bit facetious on the McCown part, but Pettine does at least sound committed to riding into the season with the soon-to-be 36-year-old McCown at the head of the offense.
For now, any talk about the Browns making a run at Kaepernick is pure speculation, just something to fill a slow day during the off-season.
But if the day comes where Kaepernick and the 49ers have had enough of each other, it may be worth Ray Farmer’s time to pick up the phone and at least make a long-distance call to the West Coast.
If the 49ers were open to trading Kaepernick, should the Browns make a move?