Report: Browns willing to give up 3rd-round pick for Colin Kaepernick

Here's what we know: Colin Kaepernick wants out of San Francisco -- where he was benched for Blaine Gabbert last season -- so much so that he's reportedly telling people he'd like to play in Cleveland.

And while the Browns are the go-to butt of any NFL-related joke, the reality is that they have all the leverage in these negotiations. Yes, new coach Hue Jackson is a professed Kaepernick fan, dating back to the quarterback's college days. But the Browns have the second-overall pick and are on the clock again at No. 32 in next month's draft, which means they can select their next franchise quarterback early in the proceedings, and worst case, Josh McCown can reprise his role as grizzled veteran starter in 2016 (with Connor Shaw and Austin Davis behind him on the depth chart).

According to reports, the 49ers are looking for a second-round pick in exchange for Kaepernick, but the Browns are only willing to give up a third-rounder, reports Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot.

The Broncos and Jets are also interested in Kaepernick, with Denver considered the front runners. But even if the Broncos are willing to part with their second-round pick (No. 63 overall) -- and that seems like a long shot, at least at the moment -- it's only two spots ahead of the Browns' third-round selection. (Hey, there's your silver lining to winning just three games in 2016.)

Another possible sticking point for the Browns: Kaepernick's contract. If he's on an NFL roster on April 1, his base salary will be $11.9 million in 2016. That's actually slightly less than what replacement-level quarterbacks are being paid this offseason (Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler are averaging $18 million a season under their new deals), but Cabot writes that Cleveland may not want to pay more him than $7 million or $8 million.

Colin Kaepernick's NFL future remains a mystery. (USATSI)
Colin Kaepernick's NFL future remains a mystery. (USATSI)

On Friday, NFL.com's Michael Silver wrote that the 49ers and Browns "are in general agreement regarding the draft-pick compensation that it would take to acquire Kaepernick," though there was no guarantee a deal is imminent.

In fact, according to Silver, if Kaepernick isn't traded in the coming days, "the Niners are preparing to move on and initiate a quarterback competition."

Put another way: San Francisco is willing to keep Kaepernick and let him duke it out with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job.

General manager Trent Baalke said at the NFL combine last month that Kaepernick would "absolutely" be on the 49ers' roster on April 1, and team president Jed York said, "I think he can be a big piece of what we're doing going forward."

Given that Gabbert outperformed Kaepernick last season -- and, more importantly, has a base salary of $1.75 million in 2016 -- we're surprised these same teams going after Kaepernick aren't interested in Gabbert; his salary is a peanuts and he almost certainly could be had for something less than a third-round pick.

That fact that we're breathlessly discussing both tells you all you need to know about the dearth of serviceable NFL quarterbacks. 

And in case you're wondering, all five of the CBSSports.com mock draft experts have Cleveland taking either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff with that No. 2 pick.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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