Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent, but the reason may not be what you think it is…
Collusion. Blackballed. An unnecessary distraction…
All these terms have been thrown around regarding Colin Kaepernick’s current employment situation, or lack thereof.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers on March 3rd, and since then there doesn’t seem to be much interest in a guy who quarterbacked the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2012. Why is that?
Since Kaepernick came into the league he has been an up and down. When he’s hot, he can be a game-wrecker, just ask Dom Capers. Kaepernick’s most famous game came in his first playoff appearance against the Green Bay Packers, 263 yards passing, 181 yards rushing, four total touchdowns… It was a devastating display of what Kaepernick could do. That same year he went into Foxboro and put up 41 points on New England and very nearly made a miraculous comeback in the Super Bowl.
The problem was that once NFL defensive coordinators got some tape on Kaepernick, on the read options and the one-read-and-run style, they were able to scheme key parts of his game away. The arm talent couldn’t force teams to give up the edges of their defense. Kaepernick has always looked after the ball, throwing just 30 interceptions in his career (a 1.8% rate) but as defenses adjusted to his talents the big plays started to disappear, and as the talent around him left his completion percentage has dropped from 62.4% in 2012, to 59 from 2015 on. The yard per attempt have seen a similar decline, from 8.3 to 6.8.
The body of work suggests that Kaepernick is not someone to elevate those around him but just another quarterback who needs a lot of help from the rest of his offense to win. So, who would really be interested in a quarterback like that?
The Potentially Interested Parties
Only a handful of teams, that’s who. Chicago needed a quarterback, but after having put up with Jay Cutler they wanted a breath of fresh air and seemingly fell in love with Mike Glennon to an extent no one else did.
The Jets love an overpriced veteran quarterback, but they didn’t have the cap space to pursue anyone but those at the bottom of the market like Josh McCown. Houston need a quarterback, but they seem to have their heart set on Tony Romo…
Outside of those three you have teams like Cleveland who aren’t going to be investing in a passer unless he is the franchise guy or Jacksonville, who don’t seem to understand that they need a new quarterback yet.
The market just isn’t there for a middling quarterback, and Kaepernick isn’t the only player suffering from a lack of league interest. Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Robert Griffin III are still available and waiting for a phone call that probably won’t come until at least after the draft, and probably until training camps open and injuries start to happen.
When Kaepernick started his protest he didn’t publicise it, he didn’t mention it until reporters asked him specifically on it. It was quiet, peaceful, and dignified. The storm of public outrage and media fury was stirred up by those away from Kaepernick, not by the quarterback himself. That might make no difference to the enclosed bubble NFL teams like to operate in, but to the outside observer it is crucial and it makes the teams look like they are colluding to leave Kaepernick out in the cold.
I don’t think that is the case. I think Kaepernick needs a very particular situation and circumstances to excel, and that situation simply isn’t available around the league. Houston could well end up turning to Kaepernick should Romo decide to step away from the field and that is maybe the best place for Kaepernick to land in 2017, but it’s far from optimum.
The term “distraction” can be thrown at anything in the NFL. Tony Dungy put his foot in his mouth by calling Michael Sam’s open homosexuality a distraction a few years ago. The thing coaches and general managers don’t want, for whatever reason, is non-footballing talk surrounding the team. Now that might be criminality by players, too much off-day partying like the New York Giants receivers, or social activism by Kaepernick, but to class them all as the same would be very wrong.
Kaepernick didn’t get a DUI, he wasn’t charged with domestic violence, or be act like an irresponsible party animal, or any litany of things that haven’t stopped players from getting another gig in the past. Fans see a guy donating $50,000 to Meals on Wheels and not getting a job while Greg Hardy can pick up $11 million following his domestic violence charges and put two and two together.
There are some executives who will have blackballed Kaepernick for his actions last year no doubt, but there are more who know that their team just doesn’t need a quarterback. Their disinterest in Kaepernick is no great crime against free speech as some of Kaepernick’s supporters are suggesting that his current lack of employment is.