SANTA CLARA — After months of trade talk and speculation, Colin Kaepernick is still on San Francisco’s roster and due a hefty payday.
Not many figured on this outcome in recent months. The 49ers could have released him or traded him.
Instead, the quarterback’s $11.9 million 2016 contract became guaranteed at 1 p.m. local time Thursday when San Francisco kept him on the roster.
While potential new teams for Kaepernick might ask him to restructure his current deal, Kaepernick wouldn’t have to accept anything less than the $11.9 million. Denver had been considered a serious suitor for a trade given the retirement of Peyton Manning and backup Brock Osweiler’s departure to Houston in free agency, but nothing got done.
Kaepernick has been recovering from surgeries on his right thumb, his left knee, and on his non-throwing left shoulder to repair a torn labrum, which landed him on season-ending injured reserve after he lost his job last fall to 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert took over in November for the benched Kaepernick, who completed just 59 percent of his passes with six touchdowns, five interceptions and a 78.5 rating before losing his job.
Kaepernick went 2-6 in eight starts last season before being benched, raising questions whether the quarterback who guided the 49ers to a runner-up Super Bowl finish following the 2012 season was still the best option under center.
Now, it looks like he will get a chance in a new, fast-paced offensive system. Gabbert, who threw for a career-best 354 yards in the season finale win against St. Louis, said when the 49ers’ 5-11 season ended with a second straight year out of the playoffs that he expected to be San Francisco’s starter going into 2016.
“That’s who I am as a person, ‘I’m going to be the starting quarterback.’ That’s the way I’ll approach it this offseason,” Gabbert said. “Regardless what happens, that’s my mindset, and I’m going to take this team and run with it.”
New coach Chip Kelly said two weeks ago he had spoken recently to Kaepernick and was hopeful the mobile quarterback would still be on San Francisco’s roster when the offseason program begins this coming Monday. It’s unclear whether Kaepernick will be in attendance on Day 1 — and the offseason program isn’t required.
“I’d love to have him. I’m a big Kap fan,” Kelly said March 17 after Stanford’s pro day. “There’s a business side of this game. Whatever that it, that is. But if he’s here on the 4th, we’ll be ready to go.”