SAN Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who drew global attention for kneeling during pre-game playings of the US national anthem, will opt out of his contract, his agents said.
Kaepernick will become a free agent starting March 9, representatives Jeff Nalley and Sean Kiernan told all 32 NFL clubs, according to NFL television network and website reports.
Kaepernick, 29, was due $16.9 million in salary and bonus payments this year on a deal that was reworked last year and originally meant to keep him with the team through 2020.
Kneeling rather than standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner” throughout the season as a way of protesting racial inequality brought Kaepernick complaints and support.
On the field, he began the season as a reserve to Blaine Gabbert before returning to the starter’s role on October 16 against Buffalo. The 49ers promptly lost nine games in a row and 10 of 11 overall to finish the season with the NFL’s second-worst record at 2-14.
Kaepernick could still return to the 49ers next season, having met last week with new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch.
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“I would characterise it as just a really positive discussion,” Lynch said. “The evaluation process is still very much fluid. We’ve only been on the job a couple of weeks, and I can tell you we both very much enjoyed being around Colin, and he seems like he’s in a real good place.” NFL general managers and coaches are expected to have more spending money than they did a year ago, with the NFL Network reporting Wednesday the salary cap for each club for the 2017 campaign will be $167 million, a $12 million jump over last year and a $47 million rise from 2012.