Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed out of the NFL for nearly three years. His protest against racial inequality and police brutality is why teams have steered clear of signing the quarterback, who has been a free agent since March 2017.
The former 49ers starter threw 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions with the team, and led San Francisco to Super Bowl 47. But the now 32-year-old quarterback missed the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons, and the majority of 2019 too. He and his former teammate Eric Reid sued the NFL for colluding to keep them out of the league, and received an undisclosed (likely sizable) settlement. Reid is now a member of the Panthers, while Kaepernick’s still on the open market.
Talk of Kaepernick returning to the league were dying down, but then the NFL arranged a private workout for Kaepernick in Atlanta. All 32 teams were invited and video of both the workout and interview were to be made available to the entire league. But then it all went to hell.
The NFL wanted no media in attendance for the workout and wouldn’t allow Kaepernick to have a camera crew on scene to document the entire performance. The NFL also wanted Kaepernick to sign a waiver that appeared to be designed to protect the league from another lawsuit via the quarterback. Kaepernick instead opted to hold his workout at an Atlanta-area high school in front of the media and a smattering of fans. Only eight teams attended.
It’s silly to think that a NFL-organized workout was necessary in the first place. Owners, coaches, and executives around the NFL have taken every opportunity to talk up Kaepernick’s capability as a player. However, when it comes time for those same people to parse through the options on the free agency market, they’ve opted against signing a player they previously praised.
There’s no reason the workout was necessary to convince teams to sign Kaepernick. Every club is free to bring him in for a workout any time they want, and there are 58 games started by Kaepernick that are already on tape to show what the quarterback can do.
There’s still plenty reason for skepticism about the NFL’s motives, considering teams have had two years’ worth of chances to sign him. The NFL also didn’t do Kaepernick many favors by informing him of the workout with less than a week’s notice and a refusal to budge on the date. The quarterback still took the opportunity with a dose of optimism, though.
I’m just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) November 13, 2019
During his workout Kaepernick showed that he’s still — at least physically — capable of being the player who threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2016. There are plenty of roster that could use a player of that quality. Here are five teams that make sense for Kaepernick right now:
It feels like every impending free agent quarterback in the NFL has been talked about as a possibility for the Bears at some point this season. There have even been debates on ESPN about the possibility of Tom Brady in Chicago.
It’s all because nobody believes in Mitchell Trubisky anymore. The third-year quarterback has just eight touchdown passes in eight starts, and the Bears are just 4-5 despite having one of the NFL’s best defenses.
So Chicago is an obvious top choice when you ask “Which NFL team could use an instant upgrade at quarterback for the remainder of 2019?”
The sticking point of Kaepernick to the Bears is that it’s hard to imagine any team will sign the quarterback with the intent to start him. If anybody was that interested, Kaepernick would already been off the market.
The Bears would benefit from an upgrade at quarterback, but it seems more likely than not that they’ll ride out the year with Trubisky and his current backup, Chase Daniel.
The depth chart at quarterback was looking great in August when Andrew Luck was expected to start and Jacoby Brissett was sitting in the No. 2 spot. But Luck abruptly retired at the end of preseason and now Brissett is dealing with a knee sprain.
Brissett could return soon, but his absence in Week 10 revealed that the Colts are not in good shape with Brian Hoyer as the new Plan B. Hoyer completed just 18 of his 39 passes against the tanking Dolphins and threw three interceptions in a 16-12 home loss.
That was a costly misstep for the Colts, who are right in the middle of both the AFC South and AFC Wild Card races.
If Brissett misses any more time, it’s hard to imagine Indianapolis would feel good about Hoyer taking the reins again. Kaepernick could be brought on as a backup for Brissett if the team feels he’d do better keeping the team above water than Hoyer.
Matthew Stafford missed a game for the first time since 2010 when he sat out Week 10 due to broken bones in his back, along with a hip injury. It’s unknown how long those problems will keep him on the sideline. Jeff Driskel is the Lions’ starter in the meantime.
Driskel started five games for the Bengals in 2018 and was released by the team before the start of the 2019 season. In his first start with the Lions, he threw one touchdown and one interception. He’s just 1-5 as a starter in his career.
If Stafford returns soon, Detroit will probably be just fine with Driskel returning to his backup role. But if the back injury requires a lengthy recovery, or any kind of setback happens, Kaepernick could be a quick addition to battle for Driskel’s spot on the depth chart.
The Panthers have reason to be encouraged by the play of Kyle Allen. He was forced into action due to Cam Newton’s foot injury and in seven games of starting duty, Allen has 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
It may be Allen’s job for a while too, because there’s a chance that Newton might never play another game for the Panthers. If the Panthers part with Newton in the offseason, that’ll leave just Allen and third-round pick Will Grier at quarterback.
Grier hasn’t seen the field at all in 2019, but the rookie’s 65.3 passer rating in preseason showed he has plenty of growing to do before he’s ready to play in the regular season. Also, neither Grier nor Allen provide anywhere near the rushing threat Newton did for Carolina.
Kaepernick could inject some stability into the Panthers quarterback room and reunite him with his former teammate Reid.
Joe Flacco’s done for the year with a neck injury, and that makes the Broncos an obvious fit. Brandon Allen performed just fine against the Browns in Week 9, but even if you believe he’ll be able to keep that up, his backup is now Brett Rypien. Or at least, that’s the case until second-round rookie Drew Lock is eligible to be activated from injured reserve.
Denver could use some veteran leadership and Kaepernick would fit the bill.
The question is whether Broncos general manager John Elway would be willing to bring in Kaepernick after previous comments he’s made about the quarterback. Last year, he told reporters Kaepernick “passed” on the opportunity to be a member of the Broncos — a disingenuous claim, at best.
Elway was also deposed in Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL. The Broncos would probably benefit from signing Kaepernick, but it’d be a surprise if Elway was willing to reverse course.