Colin Kaepernick’s roster spot is safe in San Francisco, but he won’t be the starter.
The veteran quarterback made the team’s 53-man lineup, but 49ers coach Chip Kelly announced Saturday that Blaine Gabbert will serve as starting quarterback against the Rams in Week 1. Kaepernick will play the No. 2 role ahead of Christian Ponder.
It comes as little surprise that Kaepernick made the club. He played relatively well in Thursday’s preseason finale, guiding the team on a 16-play touchdown drive and showing better arm strength than the previous week. Gabbert, though, spent nearly the entire offseason running Kelly’s attack while Kaepernick nursed multiple injuries.
Kaepernick’s sparse on-field work has been completely overshadowed by his controversial decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem. Kelly, who has supported that decision from Kaepernick, could hardly afford to dump him with nothing more than an ineffective Ponder waiting in the wings.
The question going forward is how much playing time — if any — Kaepernick receives in 2016. As NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo reported Friday on NFL Network, the quarterback’s contract is a potential issue.
Kaepernick is already guaranteed $11.9 million and can earn another $2 million in roster bonuses depending on playing time. His deal also comes equipped with nearly $25 million in injury guarantees after this year.
“If they have those injury guarantees going forward,” Garafolo said, “you could see (a Robert Griffin III)-type situation where they don’t let him do much because they’re afraid of him getting injured.”
That debate is for another day. Kaepernick, for now, still has a home.