The first week of the NFL preseason is only days away and Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent. The offseason and early portion of training camp has been filled with constant speculation of whether Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners, whether he is good enough to compete for a backup spot, and which teams should look at the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
After some quarterback injuries in the first week of camp, talk increased about whether a team should take a chance on him. Politics and his national anthem protest aside, Kaepernick deserves the opportunity to compete in a team’s camp and show that he can, at the minimum, be a backup and maybe even start a few games. Yes, he started at times for a 49ers team that finished 2-14 last season. Yes, he finished a game completing only one of four passes for five yards. But for the entire season, he threw 16 touchdowns to only four interceptions. He ranked 23rd out of 30 qualified quarterbacks in Quarterback Rating (QBR), which isn’t great, but ranked higher than Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. With that being said, here are five teams that should look into adding Kaepernick to their roster:
When news broke that Joe Flacco would miss at least a week of training camp due to a back issue, many people clamored for Baltimore to sign Kaepernick. Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett reportedly struggled early running the first-team offense and it is still unclear when Flacco will return to the field, although the team has stressed that Flacco’s injury is not serious. Currently, the Ravens seem to the best fit for Kaepernick. Greg Roman, the senior assistant coach for the Ravens, was Kaepernick’s offensive coordinator back in San Francisco. Kaepernick played for Jim Harbaugh, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s younger brother, in San Francisco. John Harbaugh himself said that he has had conversations with Kaepernick throughout the offseason and that the team is interested. However, an ESPN report claimed that while Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome were in support of signing Kaepernick, owner Steve Bisciotti was resistant to add the quarterback, due to potential backlash from fans. Newsome responded by releasing a statement saying that Bisciotti is not preventing the team from signing Kaepernick. With Flacco reportedly progressing from his injury, and the Ravens seeming to be content with Mallett as the backup, as more days go on without a Kaepernick signing, it appears less likely that he will land in Baltimore.
Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season is in question after awkwardly falling to the ground and injuring his knee in Miami’s Thursday practice. The team is reportedly fearful that Tannehill will need season-ending injury. If Tannehill has to sit out the season while recovering from surgery, Matt Moore would be the projected starter. However, behind Moore, there is no clear option for the Dolphins should he get hurt or not play well. Kaepernick presents an interesting option for Miami. He resembles Tannehill with his mobility; in the past, the Dolphins have made use of Tannehill’s speed, moving him around instead of staying in the pocket. However, like the Ravens, the Dolphins have to consider potentially angering Miami fans, many of whom are Cuban. Last season, in addition to kneeling during the national anthem, Kaepernick wore a T-shirt which showed former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. This act was perceived as a slap in the face to Cuban refugees (the breakdown of Cuban Castro supporters and opponents is a whole other can of class and culture based worms) and will no doubt be in the minds of the Dolphins front office when deciding whether or not they should sign Kaepernick.
The Bills appear to be a good landing spot for Kaepernick because like Tannehill and the Dolphins, the skill set of starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor resembles Kaepernick’s. In addition, new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is implementing a west coast offense that would optimize Kaepernick’s abilities. The west coast offense relies on quick, high-percentage passes that would benefit Kaepernick, who for his career has only completed 59.8% of his passes, according to Pro Football Reference. With two years and $30.5 million still left on his contract, according to Spotrac, the Bills are still heavily invested in Taylor. However, he underwent a groin procedure in the offseason and should he get hurt, the Bills backup quarterback is T.J. Yates, who for his career has only thrown six touchdown passes.
The Seahawks considered signing Kaepernick in the offseason, but passed on him, electing to sign veteran Austin Davis. Head Coach Pete Carroll’s explanation as to why the team didn’t sign Kaepernick did anything but satisfy people’s questions, with Carroll essentially saying that Kaepernick was too good to be their backup quarterback. The explanation begs the question, why did they consider him in the first place? Kaepernick provides a lot of familiarity for the Seahawks. As a quarterback with the 49ers, he went head-to-head with the Seahawks for several years, forming one of the best rivalries in the NFL. Playing Kaepernick twice a year (and on occasion, three times), Carroll and his coaching staff know his strengths and limitations and could put him in the best position to succeed if he ever needed to fill in for starter Russell Wilson.
New York Jets
The Jets appear to be in full tanking mode this season, parting ways with multiple veterans and seemingly setting themselves up to get a top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. But if Gang Green wants a solid option at quarterback, Kaepernick would be the way to go. Their quarterback situation is as unclear as any team heading into their first preseason game, with veteran John McCown battling against young QBs Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg for the starting spot. McCown seems to be the front runner, but one can argue that he wouldn’t even be an upgrade over Kaepernick. In five games with the Cleveland Browns last season, McCown completed only 54.5 percent of his passes and threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (6). Both fall short of Kaepernick, who completed 59.2 percent of his passes and boasted a 4-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, which ranked fifth in the league last year, according to The Football Database. It doesn’t seem likely that the Jets will consider Kaepernick but if they are truly looking for a stop-gap situation, he appears to be a better option than McCown.
Although #7 has his limitations as a QB, his upside is still impressive. Lets not forget the Kaep has played in a 49ers organization, that for the last few years has been the picture of dysfunction. What is crystal clear is that the non-football reasons outweigh the football ones for many teams that have reportedly considered signing the free agent QB. Kaepernick took a stand and now he’s paying for it. This isn’t the first time an athlete gave a non-PC take on sociopolitical issues and was seemingly black balled, i.e. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Craig Hodges and to a greater extent Muhammad Ali, and it probably won’t be the last.
collude against decide not to sign Kaepernick based primarily off of his politics, it sets a dangerous precedent, and that is problem a league that happens to be 70% black and is dealing with its own mortality could do without.
Additional reporting by Branden Peters