Until this week, Colin Kaepernick hasn’t drawn much attention, if any, as a free agent. The outspoken passer left tens of millions of dollars on the table to leave a struggling 49ers franchise, only to be met by silence from NFL front offices and screeching hot takes from social media pundits along the way.
As a result, the former Super Bowl starter remains the most accomplished quarterback available in a dire market. While a few teams still need an experienced starter to take the reins behind center — the Jets foremost among them — another destination in need of a reliable backup has emerged as the best possible landing spot for the 29-year-old.
The Seahawks have been tied to Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III as they look for a reliable veteran to back up Pro Bowler Russell Wilson behind center. When asked about the mobile passers, Pete Carroll told ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk show that “quite frankly, yes, we are looking at all those guys.”
Their interest has gone beyond that, and they’re bringing him in for a visit on Wednesday.
RG3 could use his time in the Pacific Northwest to rebuild the winning narrative that injuries and one year in Cleveland stripped from him. Kaepernick could use it to show, underneath the headlines, he still deserves to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Kaepernick has stayed glued to the top of “best available quarterbacks” lists since the season ended, and while several excuses have been made for his inability to find a new home, few hold any water.
A spot with the Seahawks would make almost too much sense. Here are some very real reasons why.
Colin Kaepernick was much better than you thought last season
Kaepernick started off his season playing behind Blaine Gabbert and wound up piloting a 2-14 team, but his performance — especially given his supporting cast — was significantly better than his numbers suggest. While he only completed 59 percent of his passes, he limited turnovers and avoided mistakes, cutting his interception rate to a career-low 1.2 percent in the process. His 16:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio was one of the league’s top 10 performances last fall.
He did that while throwing to a receiving corps headlined by Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Patton.
It’s tough to put his bad team/good performance 2016 into words, but our very own Stephen White may have done it best with a recent tweetstorm that highlighted how Kaepernick is still a special quarterback.
The TL;DR of White’s commentary? Kaepernick is a multifaceted passer who makes strong reads downfield, plays smarter than most give him credit for, and performed better than could be expected given his surroundings.
Even if you’re taking his base numbers into account, his 90.7 passer rating ranked 17th among qualified starters in 2016, ahead of players like Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Cam Newton. In a world where Mike Glennon can snag a three-year, $45 million contract after throwing only 11 passes the last two seasons, the radio silence around Kaepernick is shocking.
Colin Kaepernick is used to playing behind a piecemeal offensive line
Part of the reason why the Seahawks need a reliable backup quarterback is because their cheesecloth O-line keeps getting Russell Wilson wrecked. Seattle ranked 28th in the league last fall after letting Wilson and his backups get sacked on more than 7 percent of passing plays. Wilson has used, uh, bubble water to stay remarkably resilient, but it's clear Pete Carroll needs a contingency plan as his star quarterback gets older.
San Francisco, somehow, was even worse. Kaepernick and Gabbert were sacked on 8.74 percent of dropbacks — good for 30th in the league. Like Wilson, Kaepernick is a mobile quarterback who understands when to pull down the ball and charge upfield. While Wilson’s rushing numbers dropped to career lows last season, Kaepernick remains a dangerous weapon who can mitigate a collapsing pocket after gaining nearly seven yards per carry in 2016.
Colin Kaepernick would have an immediate ally in Michael Bennett and the rest of the Seahawks roster
After his protests of the national anthem gained international press, Kaepernick may be the league’s most recognizable activist. Bennett, however, is not far behind. The All-Pro defensive lineman has been outspoken on issues ranging from the Israel-Palestine conflict to women’s rights to childhood obesity. He’s never shied from issues he deems important nor backed down from an argument.
Bennett, along with teammates Cliff Avril, Doug Baldwin, and Jeremy Lane, spoke out in support of Kaepernick’s national anthem protests last year. Lane even joined the movement by taking a knee before games and earned his head coach’s support.
"It's a totally individual decision," Carroll said. "I'm really proud of the progress we're making in the conversation."
"He was very composed and poised about it. We support our guys."
Later, the bulk of the roster would join the movement by linking arms during the national anthem before their season opener.
This offseason, Bennett and Richard Sherman told the press they thought the passer was being blackballed by NFL teams for speaking out. The day after Carroll confirmed the Seahawks were looking at Kaepernick, Bennett told 710 ESPN Seattle that his team would be the “perfect place” for the quarterback.
Not only would Kaepernick land in a locker room where he’s surrounded by allies, but he would also join an outspoken team used to dealing with a large media presence and questions about off-field issues.
The Seahawks need a reliable backup quarterback, and Colin Kaepernick is the best player on the market
The team’s current backup, TCU product Trevone Boykin, is a former undrafted free agent who’s in hot water after being arrested in Texas on public intoxication and possession of marijuana charges. The second-year player performed well in limited action last fall, but is an untested and unfinished product who has yet to start a game in his career. With Wilson a veritable sponge for big hits, Carroll needs a reliable presence who can take over a game and inspire confidence should the team’s starter miss the first game of his career.
Enter Kaepernick, the best available player in a free agent market that has been whittled down to names like Griffin, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dan Orlovsky, and Charlie Whitehurst. He’s the best of a bad situation — and he’s still pretty damn good.