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It’s not a surprise, given that he tried to get out of San Francisco last year and restructured his contract during the season, but Colin Kaepernick is expected to opt out of his deal with the 49ers and become a free agent, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Friday.
Kaepernick has about a month before he can make the move official; Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group writes that the opt-out period is March 2-7.
As Inman notes, Kaepernick parting ways with the 49ers, who drafted him in the second round in 2011, has seemed inevitable since October, when the deal the two sides signed in 2015 was revised, allowing either Kaepernick or the 49ers to terminate the 2017 season. Kaepernick is scheduled to make $14.5 million in base salary in 2017 if he plays under the existing terms.
If he hits the free agent market, it would be the first time in Kaepernick’s career he’s been able to do so.
Kaepernick found himself at the eye of a storm this season when he decided to kneel during the national anthem in protest of the treatment of racial inequality and police misconduct; while he received a tidal wave of vitriol from some, he also received a great deal of support, and returned some of that support, showing up at high school football games where players were following his lead and protesting during the anthem.
He also decided to donate $1 million of his salary this season (plus all proceeds of his jersey sales) to charities, parsed out at $100,000 a month for 10 months.
After leading San Francisco to the NFC championship game in 2012 and then the Super Bowl in 2013, Kaepernick and the 49ers went 8-8 in 2014, after which then-general manager Trent Baalke decided to fire head coach Jim Harbaugh, who had drafted Kaepernick and orchestrated the once-proud franchise’s revival.
In 2015, Kaepernick lost his starting job when he and the team faltered; he underwent multiple surgeries in the offseason, then returned to the starting job in October. He completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,241 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions, adding 468 yards and two touchdowns rushing, though San Francisco was 1-10 in his starts (the team was just 2-14 for the season, with Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly fired).