The NFL free agency signing period begins at 1 p.m. PT on Wednesday, at which point plenty of names will begin changing teams. The tampering period has already begun, with players released, and negotiations under way with free agents. Plenty is going to change by the hour, but the people who will most significantly impact free agency are pretty well known at this point.
FOX Sports put together their thoughts on the 40 most important people in the NFL heading into free agency, and the 49ers had three representatives. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was No. 2, general manager Trent Baalke was No. 19, and head coach Chip Kelly was No. 28.
We are already starting to see some resolution to some of these "power players" with free agency a day away. Kelechi Osemele (No. 30) has agreed in principle to a deal with the Oakland Raiders, and Calvin Johnson (No. 4) announced his retirement. Plenty more will change in the next 24-48 hours, but here's what they said about the 49ers
Colin Kaepernick - No. 2
He's hurt by the reports that leaked out last year regarding his relationship with the team and his teammates. He believes they came from management. This is a big part of the reason his agents have requested permission to seek a trade. But how much interest is there elsewhere? Not much. Not as the unquestioned starter, anyway. And perhaps no one could resurrect Kaepernick's career like Chip Kelly. The Niners are willing to pay him $12 million-plus for this upcoming season, but he won't be handed the starting job. Whether Kaepernick can get over his hurt feelings will have a huge impact on the Niners and whatever franchises might employ him next.
None of us can really tell what is going to happen when exactly with this. Kap is rehabbing his various injuries, which could carry into April. If he is on the roster April 1, his 2016 salary becomes fully guaranteed. Given the contracts teams are handing out to quarterbacks this offseason, his $11.9 million base salary and $2 million in game-day roster bonuses really is not all that crazy. And so, this saga could drag on for a while yet.
Trent Baalke - No. 19
Baalke's 49ers roster underwent an extreme makeover the past 12 months with key players (Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Chris Borland, Anthony Davis) retiring and others leaving via free agency (Mike Iupati, Frank Gore). Add in the recent drama at the Combine with Colin Kaepernick's agents, a top 10 pick, and an entirely new coaching staff, and the 49ers are one of the more intriguing franchises to watch over the next 40 days. Baalke will be the point person in charge of the ever-changing roster. Anquan Boldin, recently named the Walter Payton Man of the Year, is a free agent and there are countless other decisions to be made.
Chip Kelly No. 28
Remember how poorly things started for Kelly in Philadelphia? Right off the bat, he butted heads with LeSean McCoy over a workout bonus and that relationship never recovered. Kelly's reputation will follow him to the Bay Area, where the offseason program begins next month. Kelly must navigate the Colin Kaepernick situation as best he can and will have to strike the right tone in a locker room that needs to quickly come together after the past two rocky seasons.
I figured we can look at both together given that they are now joined at the hip. All indications are that Trent Baalke is handling personnel matters, but the quarterback situation is not quite so simple given Chip Kelly's handling of the offense. The FOX Sports article was covering the next 40 days, but in reality, the next 40 days are about Trent Baalke, and the following eight or nine months are about Chip Kelly.