Colin Kaepernick: Into the Black

Colin Kaepernick: Into the Black
Colin Kaepernick: Into the Black
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

Quarterbacks are always in high demand and short supply in the NFL. If a team finds an even halfway competent starter, they don't mind paying him to stay in town. Currently, 22 quarterbacks have a contract that will pay them an average of at least $15 million per season, and 14 are making at least $20 million per season. Every other relevant quarterback is either on a rookie deal, or a stop-gap veteran making $6 million such as Brian Hoyer (49ers) or Josh McCown (Jets). No quarterback is making between $7 million and $15 million at this time.

NFL training camps open later this month, but one notable quarterback remains without a contract: Colin Kaepernick. One would assume that a healthy quarterback with a unique skill set, Super Bowl experience, and the second-lowest interception rate (1.8 percent) in league history would easily have a job lined up for his age-30 season.

However, that is not the case. After opting out of his contract with San Francisco on March 3 to become a free agent, Kaepernick has gone unclaimed after four months. In that time, he has reportedly only worked out for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Ultimately, Seattle passed on Kaepernick and signed career never-was Austin Davis to back up Russell Wilson. Carroll's explanation did not exactly pass the sniff test. "He's a starter in this league," Carroll said in June. "We have a starter, but he is a starter in this league and I can't imagine somebody won't give him a chance to play." Well, Seattle has known for more than four years that Wilson and Kaepernick are both starting quarterbacks in this league, so this "he's too good to sign" excuse rings rather hollow.

Any insight into the salary demand or role that Kaepernick is willing to accept is speculation as his camp has been rather quiet this offseason. The fact that he took the Seattle tryout and has been keeping up with his workouts should be more than enough proof that Kaepernick wants to play a seventh season in the NFL. Is that really so much to ask for in a league where Rex Grossman lasted more than a decade?

So why is Kaepernick not getting that chance as teams have continued to sign inferior quarterbacks this offseason? To say that all 32 teams have purely football-related reasons for not signing Kaepernick would be foolish. Quarterbacks of Kaepernick's caliber do not just fade into the black all of their own accord.

The Elephant and the Jackasses

There is a large elephant in the room waiting for us to address the taboo subjects in sports of racial inequality and politics. It is impossible to tell Kaepernick's story without those topics, because one of the leading theories is that Kaepernick's 2016 protests during the national anthem are the main reason he is currently unemployed. Beyond not standing for the anthem, Kaepernick spoke out about racial inequality and police brutality, two boundary lines that athletes will rarely ever cross publicly.

Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick, he has his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. There is also no doubt that his actions have sparked plenty of opinions even to the point where many people believe the league has colluded to blackball Kaepernick by not signing him this year. Of course, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell dismissed the blackball theory. "And I think that's what's great about the NFL is that we're a meritocracy", Goodell said in June, "and you earn your opportunities and you get to keep your opportunities on the way you perform, ultimately."

That sounds professional, but what in Kellen Clemens' performance has allowed him to keep a job for 12 seasons now in the NFL? Clemens is Philip Rivers' backup for the Chargers, and he still has more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (16) while not starting any games since 2013. Maybe he stands tall and puts his hand over his chest for every anthem, but there is nothing in his actual football performance that suggests Clemens is more worthy of his job than Kaepernick.

Clemens is just one example. Former NFL quarterback Vince Young, the first quarterback taken in that 2006 draft class, recently opened up to Sports Illustrated about the state of terrible quarterbacks still holding onto jobs. "I'd see a quarterback and be like, 'Dude is garbage, and I'm over here in the kitchen cooking turkey necks,'" Young told SI. Young, a black quarterback always noted for his athleticism, name-dropped Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has never made the playoffs in his career, but has managed to start 116 games in the NFL. Fitzpatrick signed a one-year deal for $3 million to back up Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay.

That has been a recurring theme this offseason: a team signing a quarterback who is clearly inferior to Kaepernick. Blaine Gabbert, who wrongly started the season for the 49ers over Kaepernick last year, went to Arizona even though he's a poor scheme fit for a Bruce Arians-coached offense. EJ Manuel was a bust in Buffalo, but if Derek Carr gets injured again in Oakland, he could be the starter rather than Kaepernick. Nick Foles signed a two-year deal for $11 million to return to the Eagles as a backup after a few irrelevant seasons away.

Then we have Chicago, which is essentially going to pay Mike Glennon, who hasn't started a game since 2014, $18 million this season before transitioning to Mitchell Trubisky. They also brought in Mark "Butt Fumble" Sanchez, who enters his ninth season with as little competence as he started with back in 2009. It is one thing for the Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes), Browns (DeShone Kizer), and Texans (Deshaun Watson) to feel good about their rookie selections, but what about the Jets? Kaepernick could have gone there and easily been the best quarterback on the roster. Alas, when a team doesn't want to win games, they call in old Josh McCown, who has helped lead his last three teams to one of the first two picks in the draft.

Now we know Kaepernick's level of play in recent years has not been nearly the same as it was in 2012-13 when he looked so dynamic. Of course, no one could argue that any other team has seen a mass exodus of talent like the 49ers have with the retirements and releases of so many prominent players (and coach Jim Harbaugh) from a team that went to three straight NFC Championship Games in 2011-13. It is actually impressive that Kaepernick managed 16 touchdown passes with just four interceptions last year in a passing game that featured Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Patton, and Garrett Celek. No 2016 quarterback had a higher rate of dropped passes than Kaepernick. No offense threw fewer screen passes (15) to help give the quarterback easy completions. Kaepernick had the most rushing value (134 DYAR) of any quarterback last season despite playing only 12 games. In fact, his runs were so productive that they boosted Kaepernick's Total QBR to 55.2, which ranked higher than the likes of the more appreciated Ryan Tannehill (54.6), Cam Newton (53.1), Carson Wentz (52.8), and Eli Manning (51.8). Kaepernick was also stuck with a defense that became the second in NFL history to allow 21-plus points in each of the final 15 games of a season.

No one is pretending that Kaepernick is still on a path to greatness, but there is no logical argument that places him outside of the top 64 quarterbacks in the league right now. For that matter, you would be hard pressed to name 32 better starters in the league. Yet here we are in a situation where more than 64 quarterbacks have an NFL contract, and Kaepernick is not one of them.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the topic. Reverend Jesse Jackson is trying to reach out to Kaepernick, who has even been blamed for the NFL's ratings going down in 2016. Back in March, President Donald Trump had to weigh in on the quarterback that he doubts anyone had heard of before. "It was reported that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump," he said. "Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that." Reportedly, an AFC general manager said that Trump's tweets could scare teams away from signing the quarterback.

Kaepernick has received support from outspoken former Seattle rival Michael Bennett and former Nevada teammate Brandon Marshall, the latter of whom also protested the anthem at times last year. Both players believe the league is blackballing Kaepernick. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh wouldn't go that far, but he does believe Kaepernick will start games in 2017. His brother Jim, who started in San Francisco the same year that Kaepernick was drafted, still believes that Kaepernick will win championships in this league. Chip Kelly was fired as San Francisco's head coach after one season with Kaepernick, but he only offered kind words this offseason and did not view the quarterback's politics as a distraction.

The NFL has shown time and time again that bad deeds can be overlooked if the potential for talent is still there. This is why despite cases of domestic violence, Greg Hardy was still given a chance by the Cowboys in 2015, and rising star Tyreek Hill was drafted by the Chiefs in 2016. Cincinnati still drafted running back Joe Mixon this year even though there is a video of him punching a woman in the face in a restaurant.

In 2009, Michael Vick was signed by the Eagles 24 days after he was released from prison for his participation in a dog fighting ring. Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I like to think that killing dogs and assaulting women are worse offenses than not standing for the anthem. It was also reported by ESPN in March that Kaepernick would stand for the anthem in 2017, but he has to find a team first.

Kaepernick: One of a Kind

One could argue that this is a unique time in NFL history where a large number of teams have handsomely-paid starting quarterbacks in place, or have chosen their quarterbacks of the future with high draft picks. It is true that out of the top 64 job openings for quarterbacks in 2017, many were already filled by the time Kaepernick became a free agent.

However, NFL history has taught us that bad quarterbacks can hang onto a job for a very long time. The supply of viable starters is just never that high. For Kaepernick's career to just end a few months shy of his 30th birthday while he's still healthy would be extremely unusual and difficult to explain. Jay Cutler just walked away for good at age 33, but he has had numerous injuries over the years and was never all that successful anyway. Similarly, Daunte Culpepper called it a career at 32, as he was never the same after a knee injury back in 2005. Kaepernick is going into his age-30 season. This should still be his prime. He started 11 games and threw 331 passes last season.

We looked at all 144 quarterbacks in NFL history who threw at least 200 passes in their age-29 season. If Kaepernick remains a free agent through the rest of this year, he will be the only quarterback in that group to not be on an NFL roster in his age-30 season. Only seven other quarterbacks out of the 144 did not throw a pass in their age-30 season, and two of them (Sam Bradford and Andy Dalton) are current projected starters for the 2017 season. Simple explanation there.

Quarterbacks with 200+ Passes in Age-29 Season, No Passes in Age-30 Season
Player Age-29 Yr Team GP GS Att. Age-30 Yr Team Age-30 Season Notes
Eric Hipple 1986 DET 16 10 305 1987 DET IR (Thumb)
Neil Lomax 1988 PHX 14 14 443 1989 PHX IR (Hip; retired in January 1990)
Bobby Hebert 1989 NO 14 13 353 1990 NO Sat out entire season over contract; returned in 1991
Hugh Millen 1992 NE 7 7 203 1993 DAL/MIA Backup - no action (DAL/MIA)
Joey Harrington 2007 ATL 12 10 348 2008 ATL/NO Backup - no action (ATL/NO)
Andy Dalton 2016 CIN 16 16 563 2017 CIN Current QB1
Sam Bradford 2016 MIN 15 15 552 2017 MIN Current QB1
Colin Kaepernick 2016 SF 12 11 331 2017 TBD Free agent

Neil Lomax and Eric Hipple missed their entire age-30 seasons due to injury. Lomax's hip caused him to retire in January 1990. Hipple, who was never a quality starter, fell out of favor as the Lions tried to get 1986 first-round pick Chuck Long going instead.

Hugh Millen was a poor starter for the Patriots in 1991 and 1992. He was traded to Dallas in April 1993 where he served as the No. 3 quarterback behind Troy Aikman and Jason Garrett. The Cowboys released Millen in November, and he signed with the Dolphins, who had lost Dan Marino (Achilles) for the season. Millen never played in a game for Miami either, and only started two more games (for an injured John Elway in Denver in 1994) in his career.

Joey Harrington was the No. 3 pick in the 2002 draft by Detroit, but only lasted four lousy years there. He replaced an injured Daunte Culpepper for Nick Saban with the 2006 Dolphins, and then tried to be Michael Vick's replacement with Atlanta in 2007. The Falcons kept him on in 2008, his age-30 season, but released him that August. He was scooped up by the Saints in mid-September to be a third-string quarterback, and was a frequent guest on the team's transactions list that season. Harrington never played in another NFL game, and the Saints released him in final roster cuts prior to the 2009 season. He never signed another NFL contract.

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So with two active players, two injured players, and two lousy backups, we're really just left with Kaepernick and Bobby Hebert. In New Orleans, Hebert became one of the league's better undrafted success stories at the quarterback position. He was the primary quarterback for the first winning season in Saints' history (1987). But by 1989, Hebert was struggling, so head coach Jim Mora benched him for John Fourcade for the final three games of the season. Hebert was not happy about that, and without free agency in existence yet, his only real choice was to hold out for the 1990 season. We hear players threaten this often now, but Hebert actually went through with his holdout and missed the entire 1990 season at age 30. He eventually signed a new contract and returned to the team in summer of 1991, leading the Saints to two more playoff appearances in 1991 and 1992.

Even Hebert's story draws little comparison to Kaepernick, who is truly unique in this regard. Also, it's not like Kaepernick lucked his way into playing a lot last season like a Hugh Millen may have in 1992. Lest we forget, Kaepernick was a high second-round pick (36th overall) in 2011, and helped the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. Expectations have been high for him, and while he has hit a rough patch the last couple of years, that's not uncommon in NFL history either for a quarterback. Just ask Ken Anderson, who struggled in 1978-1980 (ages 29-31) before rebounding to win his only MVP and lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1981.

We also looked at 117 quarterbacks who threw at least 1,500 career passes before their age-30 season. Ten of them are current projected starters for the 2017 season who are just turning 30 or are younger, including Blake Bortles (age-25 season) and Derek Carr (age-26 season). Setting those players and Kaepernick aside, only seven other players did not appear in a game at age 30. That again includes the injured Lomax and Hipple, as well as Harrington. That leaves four new examples.

Chad Henne was replaced by Bortles in Jacksonville in 2014, but he has stayed on as the backup. He did not see any action in 2015 when he was 30.

Tim Couch was the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns (2.0) in 1999. He had a rough career, but if it means anything, he is still one of the best quarterbacks the Browns have had since 1999. Couch fell out of favor and lost his job to Kelly Holcomb. The Browns released Couch just shy of his 27th birthday in 2004. Injuries really did him in during his attempt at catching on with another team. Couch tried to make the Packers' roster in 2004, but was cut in the preseason. Couch had shoulder surgery in 2005, but tryouts with the Bears and Bengals did not lead to a contract. He worked out for several more teams in 2006, but never signed a contract and had another shoulder surgery. Couch eventually played for the Jaguars in the 2007 preseason at age 30, but failed to make the cut again, effectively ending his career for good.

If anyone can challenge Kaepernick's weird downfall, it is Josh Freeman. He looked like a rising star in 2010, but that was by far his peak. Tampa Bay's hiring of head coach Greg Schiano did Freeman no favors, and the quarterback was released early into the 2013 season. The Vikings scooped him up and started him days later on a Monday night game that made us all question if we really want to cover professional football for a living. Freeman completed 20-of-53 passes that night with a whopping 16 overthrows. Oddly enough, the opponent that night, the Giants, signed Freeman in the next offseason, but he was cut before June, a rarity for veterans. The Dolphins didn't really want him in 2015 either, and Freeman tried something called the Fall Experimental Football League. He ended up starting the 2015 Colts' season finale, but didn't finish the game healthy. The Colts released him in March of 2016, and he was last seen at a practice with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes last month. Freeman is still only 29, but could use his own 30 for 30.

Then there is Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He was a five-year starter for the Buccaneers, but was the lowest-paid starting quarterback in the NFL. In fact, 12 backups were making more money than Williams. Rather than continue to be underpaid for his age-28 season in 1983, Williams left perhaps the league's most dysfunctional franchise at the time for the USFL. He did not return to the NFL until 1986 (age 31) when he reunited with Joe Gibbs in Washington, and eventually led the Redskins to a Super Bowl win the following season.

The fact that Kaepernick, Freeman, and Williams are all black is likely just a coincidence, but it is interesting how they all hit major adversity after five seasons as starters for the teams that drafted them. Being black and generally not too good didn't hinder Seneca Wallace (2003-2013) and Tarvaris Jackson (2006-2015) from decade-long careers in the NFL. However, the Seahawks, one of the more progressive teams in the league, helped both players hit that milestone. When the Seahawks are opting for Austin Davis over Kaepernick, then he really might have played his last down in this league.

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Then again, all it takes is one injury to a prominent starter for a team to go looking. Last season, the Teddy Bridgewater injury in Minnesota led to a desperate trade with the Eagles for Sam Bradford. If something were to happen to a player this preseason on a team expecting to compete without a good backup in place, how is Kaepernick not the first name that gets a call?

Of course, how is he not already on a team without a good backup? Some teams can justify this for strictly football reasons, but not all 32. Chances are he will sign somewhere eventually and that will render our table moot, but if not, then "blackballed" is going to be the narrative's ending to Kaepernick's NFL story.

In conclusion, it has been argued this offseason that Kaepernick created this unique situation by opting out of his contract. He'd still be on a roster had he just stayed in San Francisco. That simply is not the case. New general manager John Lynch confirmed in May to Pro Football Talk that Kaepernick would have been cut had he not opted out of his deal. With new head coach Kyle Shanahan in town, the 49ers have a vision for their offense that did not include Kaepernick, not even as a backup. Weeks later, Lynch had more to say about Kaepernick in an interview with KNBR. "I think the way you could best help yourself is not to have someone talk for you, not have statements, but go sit down and give an interview and let people know where you stand because he makes a compelling case as to how bad he wants to be in the league when you talk to him," Lynch said.

So does that mean Kaepernick needs to do an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt where he tells America how much he wants to play this season? Do they bring in Bob Costas to handle the tough questions? Please, spare us that sight. We need that interview as much as we need a prime-time game between the Bears and a quarterback of Brock Osweiler's caliber.

It is one thing for a player to look like Zack de la Rocha, but perhaps Kaepernick's career is proof that you can't actually rage against the machine and not face any consequences.

"For example, what does the billboard say? Come and play, come and play. Forget about the movement."

-- "Freedom" by Rage Against the Machine.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Ordinarily, we try to keep political discussion out of Football Outsiders stories. In this case, though, politics are the story. As such, we are suspending our "No Politics" rule and allowing political comments on this page, so long as they pertain to Colin Kaepernick and the NFL. We ask that our readers please be civil and respectful with one another. Thank you.)


84 comments, Last at 06 Aug 2017, 3:05pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 11, 2017 - 12:39pm

Has there been any suggestion that Kaepernick is a locker room cancer or a chronic malcontent? Remember, when the kneeling drama began, Kaepernick was on the edge of being cut outright. Many people thought the kneeling was a cynical ploy to make it too politically costly for SFO to cut him.

Or, Kaepernick might have fallen into a trap that mostly affects WRs -- when prima donnas lose a step and are still massively talented players, but not as talented as their ego or mouth demands. Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, etc.

But let's put it in another context. Tyrod Taylor is struggling to remain a starter on a .500 team. He's making between 7 and 15 million (7.5 million, cap hit of 9.7). He's been better than Kaepernick for the last two years, and has managed to be a backup without causing trouble (unlike Kaepernick). If the rich man's Kaepernick is struggling to fit, why are we surprised that the regular version is, too?

Points: 0

#3 by Pottsville Mar… // Jul 11, 2017 - 1:08pm

I don't think there have even been whispers that Kaepernick is a locker room problem. His team largely supported him, even those who didn't agree with his political stances. And his teammates voted for him to receive the Len Eshmont Award for 2016, annually given to the player "who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont."

All this is to say he's not a "prima donna" in the sense of Johnson/Moss/Owens. He's declined from his peak performance, but he still put up roughly league-average passing stats on a team that was a flaming pile of garbage (plus he's a rushing threat). It's perfectly clear that the reason he hasn't been brought in is purely due to his political stances.

Points: 0

#5 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 11, 2017 - 1:14pm

There have been suggestions that Kaepernick is difficult in the locker room, but those have come from...outside the locker room.

As for Kaepernick's teammates themselves, they've been pretty uniformly either A) supportive or B) silent when asked about him. They also just gave him the Len Eshmont award last season, the team's highest player-voted award, given to the player who best embodies "inspirational and courageous play".

Now, I suppose it's possible that he won that award with, say, 30 votes and the other 22 players hated his guts or something; we don't know. But there is no real evidence that he's an issue in the locker room in any way; at least, not from the people who actually were IN the locker room with him.

Points: 0

#24 by t.d. // Jul 11, 2017 - 6:50pm

Nope, long before it was clear that his career was on a downward spiral, Crabtree called Kaepernick out as a disinterested, shitty worker (nobody really goes public with this kind of shit, so it must have really bothered him). The 49ers also gave him an extension with less cap hit than normal if they chose to bail on it, which looks like they must have been worried about something, in retrospect. He also became a vegan in the last year and a half, which calls into question whether he really wants to be playing football. Never seen this much commotion for a primary starter coming off three wins in nineteen starts. It is true that he would probably be among the top 64 quarterbacks, but he plays a relatively unconventional style, and nobody wants a backup quarterback who is a media darling- it's a recipe for a turbulent, contentious season, and the payoff doesn't justify the headache- it's the same reason nobody is interested in Tebow for a backup job

Points: 0

#31 by LionInAZ // Jul 11, 2017 - 11:19pm

Michael Crabtree is a career underacheiver who never lived up to his first-round draft status. He has no business calling out Kaepernick. And what does being vegan have to do with being committed to football?

Points: 0

#70 by LionInAZ // Jul 13, 2017 - 11:16pm

Crabtree was 18th ranked WR by DYAR and 38th ranked by DVOA. It wasn't even his best season. He had the longest egotistical contract holdout for a rookie, he's never been selected for a Pro Bowl. Pretty sad for the #10 draft pick in 2009. I stand by my statement.

Points: 0

#45 by Raiderjoe // Jul 12, 2017 - 10:37am

Crabtree sueprvb receiver for Raiders. had injury at SF and production dipped a tad. btu is now back and good aghain with Raiders.

Not vegan btgu what I know about it is a lto of extra smelly gas and likely weight loss. from my novice standpoint, wouydl think vegan diet not great folr football players it might be okay though not totally sure

Points: 0

#50 by Sixknots // Jul 12, 2017 - 1:16pm

Yup, the *extra smelly gas* would blackball him for me.

Edit: See, the spam filter doesn't like extra smelly gas either.

Points: 0

#81 by gofastjoey // Jul 17, 2017 - 10:37pm

playing the vegan card?

google: tom brady vegan diet and let me know if you still think eating a healthy diet is a detriment to being an excellent football player.

ill wait.

Points: 0

#8 by dank067 // Jul 11, 2017 - 2:13pm

Taylor is making $14.5 million this year including his signing bonus. If he remains with the Bills next season he's in line to earn $16 million, so his contract annual value is over $15 million per year ($30.5/2 yrs). $1 million of his 2018 base salary is also guaranteed so, if something were to happen such that he never plays another down, he will have made over $15 million for 2017.

Taylor doesn't make any sense as a comparison to Kaepernick anyway. He came close to losing his job this offseason... and the Bills decided to re-structure his contract, guarantee him $15.5 million, and will have to eat a dead money cap hit of nearly $9 million in 2018 if they decide they don't want to pay out the rest of the $30.5 million over two years. The Bills only would have incurred a $2 million dead cap hit if they declined his option and released him this offseason, so it's also not like Taylor had a ton of leverage in negotiations.

All of that to say: given Taylor's valuation by the Bills, I think he would easily have a job this season had he been released.

Points: 0

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:03pm

Taylor took a $4.5M pay cut to stay with the Bills.

Kaepernick turned down a $17M player option to stay with the 49ers.

Kaepernick's wants are $9-10M and a fair chance at starting, which is almost exactly Taylor's situation (except slightly higher salary).

Yet we're talking about Kaepernick and not Taylor. I think the similarities are more profound than the differences. Both are "black" QBs who run for value and don't throw INTs. Both have struggled for consistent success in run-oriented offenses. Both are fringe starters.

I think it's the running part that causes the most consternation. The only "running" QB who gets a lot of love is Rodgers and his Tarkentonian escapism. Even the good running QBs get criticized for it -- Wilson, Young, McNabb, McNair, etc. Wentz and Tannehill get some of the same concern. The exception, amusingly enough, is Smith, who it seems everyone forgot could run.

Points: 0

#13 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:10pm

I've yet to see Kaepernick's salary demands actually reported from an actual source and not just rumor-mill stuff.

Also, Kaepernick would have been cut by the 49ers had he not opted out; that's been confirmed by both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. It's not a "well, he opted out" situation -- he wasn't going to be on the team one way or another, and opted out early. He wasn't offered a "take a pay cut and we'll go from there" deal; the new 49ers regime wanted a fresh start (and, frankly, Kaepernick would probably be best suited in an entirely new environment to shake off the last few years anyhow).

So it's not really comparable to Taylor in that sense.

Points: 0

#82 by jefeweiss // Jul 20, 2017 - 3:03pm

This is what I came here to say. Unless you know what he is asking for, you can't say for sure what is going on. If he's asking for a multi year deal at 20 million a year with a good chunk of that guaranteed, I'm really not surprised that there are no takers. If he's just trying to get in somewhere at backup QB money, I am shocked that no one has picked him up. I suspect that the truth is somewhere in between the two, but I don't have any special knowledge either way.

I do think that he wants to start and I wouldn't be surprised if he thought he was worth at least in the 15m a year range. That does kind of limit his choices. If he wants to play for a team that could contend, that would limit things even further.

Points: 0

#83 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jul 21, 2017 - 9:17am

Generally backup QBs get paid about $1-2m. Sometimes a bit more (e.g. Drew Stanton - $5-6million) but often a lot less if there's a franchise guys ahead of them or they're on rookie contracts.

The more I look at it, the more I believe the reality is that Kaep would like to start if possible and be paid decently for it. Every year starters get injured and teams need to find backups - see Sam Bradford last year.

His best option is just to keep quiet, not piss anyone off any further by making any claims of being blackballed, especially when journalists will write it for you, and wait for some leverage come September.

Points: 0

#2 by Babylon // Jul 11, 2017 - 12:55pm

Chad Johnson spent a year with the Patriots where he showed he was cooked. He was then signed by the Dolphins, and cut only when arrested, he was also 34 at the time.

Terrell Owens at age 36 and after 5 stops around the league, tore his ACL, went to play indoor football for a year, then was brought in by the Seahawks at age 38.

Randy Moss at age 35 after 5 stops was brought in by the 49ers and played the full season.

So aged prima donna WR's sure do seem to get a ton of chances Kaepernick isn't.

Also I recall quite a number of his 49er teammates defending him, which is in stark contrast to say, how the Jets lockerroom reacted to Geno Smith (currently signed!) getting his jaw broken in a lockerroom fight.

Points: 0

#4 by Scott Kacsmar // Jul 11, 2017 - 1:14pm

If I lowered the age-29 cutoff to 100 passes, this is what I've found.

Adds 52 QBs to the list.
Out of those 52, 10 didn't play in the NFL at age 30.

George Shaw - infamously replaced by Unitas in Baltimore early in his career
Gifford Nielsen - Became Oilers broadcaster
Scott Secules - NE cut him 4/21/1994; Drew Bledsoe was QB1. His Linkedin says he was an NFL QB until May 1994
Ed Matesic- We're talking a TB from 1936 who played three seasons. Prehistoric comp.

Mike Taliaferro - stayed with NE in 1971
Turk Schonert - went to CIN in 1987
Babe Laufenberg - went to DAL in 1989

Ace Parker - served in WWII; resumed playing career in 1945
Randy Johnson - played in the World Football League in 1974; returned to NFL in 1975
John McCormick - I can't seem to find what happened to him in 1967 with Denver, but he returned to the team in 1968. In 1966, he actually only completed 35.2% of his passes (68 of 193), so I don't think Denver was really missing him.

Points: 0

#6 by Travis // Jul 11, 2017 - 1:52pm

George Shaw: waived by the Broncos in August 1963, released a few weeks later, retired
Scott Secules: attended Browns minicamp in May 1994, unsigned
Ed Matesic: signed with rival American Football League in 1937
John McCormick: retired in June 1967, unretired July 1968, released one game into the season.

Points: 0

#19 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:56pm

If you go down to 28, you get Josh McCown. He actually has done this twice, in his age-26 and age-28 seasons.

If you bump up a couple of years, you get Randall Cunningham's 1996. He's probably the best case, as a controversial black running QB who reached a crossroads, was out of the game for a year, and returned to become an All-Pro QB.

Shaun Hill nearly did this. He went from 416 attempts at 30 to 3 at 31. Then there's really edge guys like Kordell Stewart and Tom Tupa who got shunted to different position; they don't really count.

I think the running aspect is one of the issues, both for Kaepernick specifically and guys like him in general. You see lesser QBs get picked up, but they often play a style that's more of a drop-in replacement for the starter. What Kaepernick does well often requires a different approach from the offense, which can be hard to execute mid-season.

What does this mean? Kaepernick would best fit systems that resemble what he does well. Who is that?

Seattle, Kansas City, Buffalo, Miami, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Pittsburgh

Seattle and KC are out for internal rivalry issues. Might also be an issue in Miami. Buffalo has already built a depth chart around Kaepernick-like guys. That leaves Jacksonville, GB, and Pittsburgh. GB likes to internally-develop guys. Pittsburgh has started considering the concept with Dobbs, although Kaepernick is likely more talented. Roethlisberger is always good for 3 injured games per year. Jacksonville is probably the ideal spot, but that requires the Jags to admit Bortles was a miss.

Or he could bide his time and see if the Rams admit reality.

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#7 by drobviousso // Jul 11, 2017 - 2:08pm

"Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick, he has his First Amendment right to freedom of speech."

Come on FO, you are better than that. Dude's probably not getting picked up because of his public statements, but that's not a first amendment issue.

And just to get this out of the way: I'd like to see the guy play, preferably in the preseason for my team the Steelers as our #2. I'd also like to see culture change to be more inviting of heterodox and controversial speech that doesn't put the speakers job or physical security at risk.

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#9 by jtr // Jul 11, 2017 - 2:14pm

>Kaepernick spoke out about racial inequality and police brutality, two boundary lines that athletes will rarely ever cross publicly

I don't think this is true about pro athletes in general. NBA players and coaches are often outspoken about race, politics, and police brutality. For instance, players on both teams wore T-shirts with the last words of Eric Garner during warmups before a Nets-Cavs game a few years ago.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been outspoken in support of both athletes in general and Kaepernick in particular who leverage their fame to raise racial issues. He's also gone off on rants against Donald Trump several times. In terms of sustained success and creativity in integrating players with unusual skill sets, Popovich is really the closest equivalent to Bill Belichick in professional sports. So I find it interesting that he's so comfortable speaking out on racial and political issues when Belichick (and basically the rest of the NFL) is so incredibly tight-lipped.

I think pro football culture is somewhat unique among American sports in requiring such a high level of uniformity and complete non-controversy from players and coaches. I'm not sure what exactly it's attributable to, but I think it's reached a point where it's pretty toxic. An equivalent player to Kaep, with the same political views and a limited but sometimes electric skill set, would not have any trouble finding a spot on an NBA roster. I think it's pretty damning that the entire NFL considers Kaep's political views and nonviolent protests a dealbreaker.

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#14 by serutan // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:23pm

Pete Roselle really, really pushed groupthink/conformity in his tenure. If a
player back then showed much personality much less political views, he either wound up brainwashed, out of the league, or with the Raiders.
Was wr

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#51 by turbohappy // Jul 12, 2017 - 2:59pm

Completely agree and seeing it front and center has affected my fandom of the NFL significantly. I am likely to not watch this year at all and focus on other football like semipro and semipro women.

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#10 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jul 11, 2017 - 2:41pm

I'd say it's slightly disingenuous to sum up Jay Cutler's retirement in one sentence.

Yes he's 33 but the Bears cut him at the start of March and he only retired at the start of May when no team had picked him up. Perhaps his contract demands were too high or like Pete Carroll said about Kaepernick "he's a starter in this league".

But there are certainly parallels between both Kaepernick and Cutler being unable to find new teams this offseason despite being better than most of the available quarterbacks. And Cutler had none of the baggage.

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#64 by Steve in WI // Jul 13, 2017 - 1:41pm

None of the political baggage, maybe, but let's remember that his season ended last year with a pretty severe shoulder injury that some people at the time thought could permanently alter his throwing. It's not certain that Cutler in 2017 would have been the same or close to the same as Cutler in 2016, and he's a QB who basically got by on arm strength.

I also hate to bring it up because I was always a Cutler defender, but at least among some people there was the perception that his personality was a problem in the locker room. Given the nature of the NFL, it's possible that could have played a part too.

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#84 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 06, 2017 - 3:05pm

Cutler finally signs as a starter and reunites with Adam Gase at the Dolphins.

More support to my belief that Kap wasn't necessarily being blackballed just isn't a fit for a team because he's perceived as wanting to be a starter and while he hasn't openly revealed his salary demands, it's probably too much for a backup.

On the other hand it's said Newsome/Harbaugh want him at the Ravens but Biscotti has said "No" ...

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#11 by apk3000 // Jul 11, 2017 - 2:56pm

"If a team finds an even halfway competent starter, they don't mind paying him to stay in town."
Well, most teams. Some apparently prefer to pay the franchise tag price every year.

I'm sure Kaep is getting blackballed. But that isn't a First Amendment issue, since the NFL is not the government and anthem respecting isn't a protected class.

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#15 by LyleNM // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:31pm

I feel that this article would have been more complete if it also included Robert Griffin III's employment situation.

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#16 by Theo // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:33pm

"He's a starter in this league" is coach speak for "he demands too much money" and/or "his ego is too inflated".

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#20 by jds // Jul 11, 2017 - 4:48pm

I think that is the key, and is essentially what Carroll was telling people. I think he wants starter money, and he is not going to get that from someone already paying starter money, unless a season ending injury occurs, somewhere. If he would take backup money, I have no doubt that he would be somewhere right now. I get the feeling he (and his agent) are sitting around waiting for a "Bridgewater" to happen.

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#61 by ChrisS // Jul 13, 2017 - 12:51pm

I read that as "if my starter has a bad spell then he is good enough so that pressure to start him will build and I don't need that contorversy/headache/distraction"

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#17 by commissionerleaf // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:34pm

I know he doesn't throw interceptions, but the fact that possibly the best coach (non-New England division) in the NFL at the time got him to a Super Bowl by not letting him do anything complicated isn't an indication that he is a great quarterback.

And he has regressed since then.

He looked helpless in most of his starts last year; my comment at the time was that Blaine Gabbert looked like a bad NFL quarterback, but that Kaepernick looked like a talented person who was not an NFL quarterback.

Has he ever completed a pass to his second read? Third? Even Gabbert could find his fourth or fifth, although he'd usually miss them with the actual pass.

I'm not sure Kaepernick doesn't have potential, but I wouldn't want to spend starter money to teach him.

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#18 by Dales // Jul 11, 2017 - 3:46pm

It could be as simple as this: he created a circus last year that his team didn't need, and now teams don't want him because of that.

I know as a Giants fan that I am much happier with Freeman backing up Eli than I would be with Kaep, even though I know that when considering just play on the field, Kaep is better. He's better, but I am not sure the team would be. In fact, I suspect the team would be worse off.

Other players have spoken out on racial injustice, without this fallout. Others have protested, as the article mentioned, without this fallout. Only he created a circus, and only he is facing this fallout.

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#26 by mehllageman56 // Jul 11, 2017 - 7:16pm

Considering that the Giants signed the guy who got his jaw broke by a teammate over 300 dollars, I'd say their attitude is about the money. If it isn't, they deserve the Geno Smith debacle they will get later this season.

Of course, it will be the perfect luck of the Jets if Geno leads the Giants to the Super Bowl once that line gets Eli killed this year. Supporting Freeman, who hasn't been in the NFL for years, as your no. 2 quarterback is something no NFL team would do, including the Jets.

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#29 by Dales // Jul 11, 2017 - 8:35pm

Well, sure. I was speaking out *my* perspective on it, not why the Giants signed who they did.

And as for my perspective, notice I didn't say I'd prefer Smith backing up Eli. But, again, Smith's sideshow is nothing like the Kaep circus.

Naturally, my preference is based on Freeman being at least of Nassib level of clipboard holding, and that Webb doesn't grab the clipboard from all of them.

[Dear God, the spam robot thinks *that* may have been spam? Why does that thing always nab me?]

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#33 by LionInAZ // Jul 11, 2017 - 11:40pm

Terrell Owens was a much bigger circus and locker room canker than Kaepernick ever was, and teams still kept picking him up.

At every game you see film shots of players shifting around, chewing gum or tobacco, acting restless, but they're not called out. Kaepernick only gets singled out because he did it in a politically incorrect manner.

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#38 by Theo // Jul 12, 2017 - 5:54am

Part of the QBs job description is being a leader on and off the field for everyone. Not so much for wide receivers.

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#48 by bigpoppapump // Jul 12, 2017 - 12:47pm

Only he created a circus, and only he is facing this fallout.

The circus was the reporting and reaction to his perfectly rational refusal to stand for the anthem. To say "only he" created it is absurd. There was a massive ongoing story for week after week early last season. Kaep refused to stand and cited instances of white police killing black people as he reason. He was a focus for a flashpoint in america's 150 year old racist history. But he didn't create anything.

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#52 by t.d. // Jul 12, 2017 - 5:42pm

America's history of racism goes back a lot further than 150 years. As the first post mentions, Kaep isn't just a lightening rod for what he said- he's a lightening rod because he was about to be cut, and then he created a controversy that tied his employer's hands (and he wants to start, and he wants too much money). If Vick got a job, when a contender needs a quarterback, Kaep'll get calls, but why would anyone want to turn training camp into a circus?

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#57 by bigpoppapump // Jul 13, 2017 - 8:01am

Again. How does he "create" a controversy?

He's reacted to an ongoing thing (Racism) by choosing to do something symbolic (sitting during the song when standing is the norm). He didn't create that.

The controversy is the hysterical coverage and the childlike inability of those who disagree with him to see it for what it is (a symbolic act). He hasn't hurt anyone. He doesn't deserve the rabid response. If he were in a training camp the circus would come from the coverage, not from him.

Land of the free?

It's Free if you do what you're told.

Ali said - no Vietcong ever called me N*****

Wouldn't fight a white man's war.

How's this different? Kaep wouldn't stand for a white man's song.

Now he's said he will (stand) that should be it. But he needs to be punished first, so you get what you've got - clowns getting jobs before him - and the white man using their own inability to let it go ("the circus") as their excuse for not employing the ungrateful black man.

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#60 by Raiderjoe // Jul 13, 2017 - 10:54am

kaepernick is black?

pretyy sure he is white nad black biologically but his real parents are both white

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#72 by bigpoppapump // Jul 14, 2017 - 4:20am

there's your problem in a nutshell - you think about who's black and who's white as if they are mutually exclusive categories when actually there's a spectrum with no definitive boundary at any point along it. The South African government of the Apartheid era would tie itself in knots deciding who was what in order to stop the wrong people from getting in the wrong swimming pool. It's just pure imagined bullsh1t. Not real.

how about thinking of people? He's a person, right? People can choose what they stand or sit for? Free ones can anyway.

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#73 by MilkmanDanimal // Jul 14, 2017 - 10:42am

Well, the general issue with a usual approach towards perception of race is that it really isn't "white" or "black". It's "white" or "not-white", and people fall into the "not-white" bucket if their pigmentation is just dark enough to be noticeable. Barack Obama's mother was as Caucasian as I am, but nobody referred to him as "our first half-white president". He was our first "African-American president" because his skin was dark enough that he's considered "black". The concept of "race" is genetically gibberish anyways, and it's all about perception.

Kaepernick is the same way; white mother, black father, and nobody cares if his mother had light skin. He's got dark enough skin that he just, for lack of a better term, "isn't white enough". That's basically what "race" means in this country on a fundamental level.

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#78 by LionInAZ // Jul 15, 2017 - 5:50pm

To be fair, Obama self-identified as black. But I agree with the premise that Kaepernick is judged largely by his skin color. "Uppity", you know.

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#74 by Raiderjoe // Jul 14, 2017 - 11:15am

maybe I am just diffeenrt because I do call Kaepernick half white.
on perasonl note, the other two people who live under the same roof as me would not identify as the same race as me. one is like Kaepernick

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#21 by Ambientdonkey // Jul 11, 2017 - 5:03pm

It's possible that Kaepernick's 1-5 for 4 yards and 6 sacks performance against the Bears generally bad defense in week 13 soured them on the opportunity to bring him in.

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#22 by Pen // Jul 11, 2017 - 5:12pm

That 'fair chance at starting" part is the reason Carroll didn't hire him. Don't know why Scott thinks there's anything fishy about Carroll's remarks. Sounds exactly like the man. I can think of two very good reasons Carroll didn't hire him. One, no need to start a QB controversy which would only distract the team and feed the trolls who think Wilson gets preferential treatmen. Two, Kaep can't beat out Wilson. He'd be a great QB IF Wilson gets inured, but he won't really have any chance to start otherwise and Kaep wants to be a starter and Kaep IS starter material. So Carroll isn't going to lie to him just to sign him on. This is the same coach who actively assists his best coaches to find better jobs.

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#34 by Duke // Jul 12, 2017 - 12:11am

If Kaep wanted to be a starter, he would have never tried out for Seattle. He's obviously not going to start over Wilson. If Wilson is healthy, he's the starter for Seattle.

Trying out for Seattle is evidence that Kaepernick is willing to be a backup.

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#23 by justanothersteve // Jul 11, 2017 - 5:57pm

All this talk is meaningless without a thorough evaluation of Kaepernick's playing over the last year. We all know the situation and FO has the experts at what statistics really mean. However, I've also read (and probably read here) on how CK's problems are more subtle, missing reads so not throwing to wide-open receivers along with being almost incapable of going through a QB progression in or out of the pocket.

If he played like Brady or Rodgers, this wouldn't be an issue. Great players get a lot more leeway than a borderline starter. Right now, CK is a borderline starter with more baggage than a traveling drag queen with an Econoline van.

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#43 by Pen // Jul 12, 2017 - 10:31am

All I ever remember reading around here is how Kaepernick has a higher upside than Wilson. I never bought into it and I guess neither do the Seahawks.

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#27 by BigRichie // Jul 11, 2017 - 7:58pm

Kaepernick's Ghana trip and his report thereof sure did not read like that of a man who's ready to downplay his activism. You'd be signing a guy who will continue being a lightning rod, who's salary expectations we don't actually know but they sure kinda sound higher than backup money, and who doesn't say but sure kinda sounds like he wants a preseason shot at the starting job. I think I'd say he's getting sensibly blackballed.

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#28 by BigRichie // Jul 11, 2017 - 8:02pm

His story is resembling Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's athletically as well as sociologically. A clearly talented and equally clearly flawed player makes himself a bigger headache than he's worth, factoring in his playing flaws. And his own words nominally to the contrary, actually isn't as hungry to play as he once was and all of his competitors still are.

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#44 by Pen // Jul 12, 2017 - 10:33am

Your definition of flawed is standing up for what you believe strongly in? My definition of flawed is the opposite.

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#30 by curry // Jul 11, 2017 - 11:17pm

Thanks for sharing!!

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#32 by Alternator // Jul 11, 2017 - 11:23pm

1) Even if nothing manifests in the clubhouse - there's been what, one guy (Crabtree) who's spoken ill about him? - signing Kaepernick will cause a media circus.

2) He's a marginal starter at best, and admittedly the constant changes at head coach would give any QB problems (look at Alex Smith, who developed into a competent starter once he had some stability), but there's not much reason to think that Kaep is going to advance much further than 'reasonable starter.'

3) Any team with a pure pocket passer QB is immediately going to rule out Kaep as their backup due to scheme, which dramatically cuts down on his possible landing points.

4) Kaep is *just* good enough and has *just* enough of a following that, if the brought in as a backup, there could be media rumblings if the starter starts out slowly.

5) Next year is expected to be a good year to draft a QB, which favors the veteran retread QBs who are, even if they play well, easy to sell as a caretaker next year.

I support Kaepernick's broader message (I haven't paid enough attention to the details to have a refined opinion) but, as a coach or GM, I probably still wouldn't want to bring in Kaep unless my job was on the line. There's too little upside for the certain headache it'd cause.

Edit: This really triggers the spam filter?

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#42 by jtr // Jul 12, 2017 - 9:51am

Re: point 3, that doesn't seem to be a huge consideration for OTHER scrambling backup QB's. The Patriots turned to scrambler Jacoby Brissett in Brady's absence last year. Admittedly he was the third-stringer, but they used a third-round pick on him even though he's stylistically the opposite of Tom Brady. Michael Vick is another example, as late in his career he was backup for Geno Smith and Ben Roethlisberger, neither of whom is particularly mobile. And obviously Vick comes with a ton of baggage himself; I would HOPE that NFL teams consider severe animal abuse to be a worse crime than political expression.

As far as point 4 goes, that's true of absolutely any backup QB. A few years ago there was a large subset of Bears fans who were absolutely desperate for some Jimmy Clausen, and we all knew exactly how bad Clausen was at that point. That fans and sportswriters are going to be clamoring for the backup when the starter struggles is simply a fact of life in the NFL, regardless of who the backup actually is.

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#35 by Yu Narukami // Jul 12, 2017 - 3:52am

Let's see all the possible options:

(btw, viable = we are committed to this guy for at least a couple of years as the starter)


NE -> viable starter
MIA -> viable starter
BUF -> viable starter
NYJ -> full tanking mode


BAL -> viable starter
PIT -> viable starter (Kap could be an interesting option as backup since BB7 is always missing a couple of games)
CIN -> viable starter
CLE -> messy situation, but they have a 3-qbs battle for camp including a 2nd round pick rookie


LAC -> viable starter
KC -> viable starter + 1st round rookie
DEN -> other team of interest but MAYBE is the year they will have Lynch evaluated on the field
OAK -> viable starter


IND -> viable starter
HOU -> 1st round rookie
JAX -> other team of interest, but probably I would prefer having Bortles full imploding and draft a new guy next year
TEN -> viable starter



NYG -> viable starter
DAL -> viable starter
WAS -> weird situation, but franchised starter qb
PHI -> viable starter


GB -> viable starter
MIN -> viable starter
CHI -> 1st round rookie
DET -> viable starter


TB -> viable starter
ATL -> viable starter
NO -> viable starter
CAR -> viable starter


LAR -> committed to Goff for another year at least
ARI -> this was interesting as Palmer is declining and retire-bound, but they took Gabbert
SEA -> viable starter


So I have JAX, ARI and DEN. JAX and DEN, though, have alternative options that "make sense".

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#36 by Yu Narukami // Jul 12, 2017 - 4:14am

I am also implying that you don't want to bring him as a backup to an average/not indisputably very good QB (f.i. Tannehill), since you will then have a "Qb controversy™" after the first loss. And Kap is also a "not indisputably very good QB".

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#69 by lokiwi // Jul 13, 2017 - 7:20pm

If I was a PIT fan (and I know there are a bunch in the comments here), I would be pissed that he isn't being brought in as a backup. With a historically injury-prone starter, one disastrous backup (Landry Jones), a 4th round project (Dobbs), and a team that needs home field desperately, not at least bringing him in for a workout is just malpractice.

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#37 by Wade8813 // Jul 12, 2017 - 4:34am

There are a couple other possibilities as far as Pete Carroll - maybe Kap wanted, say, $2 million (a good bargain), but the Seahawks wanted to go even cheaper.

Another consideration, is that Carroll has a general policy of doing what's best for those around him, even if it seems to hurt the team (because he thinks that overall, it helps the Seahawks, when players and staff know that Pete will look out for their best interests). So maybe he told Kap that he should wait for a QB to get injured, where he'll have a shot at a starting job.

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#39 by Dan // Jul 12, 2017 - 6:22am

Chris Kluwe and Ray Rice are two players who come to mind as getting cut by their team and being unable to find another job, probably in part due to off-the-field / locker room / team image concerns. They each looked to be potentially starter-caliber, but non-elite and replaceable, when their playing days ended.

(Of course, there are large differences between Kaepernick, Kluwe, and Rice in what their off-the-field issues consisted of. Kaep is more similar to Kluwe in that regard.)

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#41 by Raiderfan // Jul 12, 2017 - 7:57am

I do not think he is being blackballed. I think Vick's history shows that teams will accept the controversy (I live in PA, and with him there was a lot) for the talent. I think that the teams know two things that we do not--salary expectations and opportunity to start expectations-- which, along with scheme fit, can explain why he does not have a job.

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#49 by MilkmanDanimal // Jul 12, 2017 - 12:50pm

The Michael Vick situation is completely different, because Vick came out contrite and full of regret over his past actions. People LOVE a redemption story, and Michael Vick having that huge fall and going into prison, then coming out a proverbially changed man is the made-for-TV-movie kind of thing people just eat up.

If Colin Kaepernick came out and said, "I regret kneeling during the Anthem, I talked to veterans X, Y, and Z" or "I read up on my history and my views have changed" or whatever, I think he's in camp right now. The thing is, he's still holding fast to his views, and that means he doesn't get to fall into that pleasant little "THOU SHALL BE REDEEMED" storyline that people get warm fuzzies from, so he can still be conveniently lumped into the "bad guy bucket".

Other issues aside (and those issues are huge and well-documented throughout this post), people are willing to forgive a guy like Vick who has changed away from what they perceive to be an unpleasant past, but Kaepernick hasn't done that. Vick's signing was controversial, but the Eagles could play the "everybody deserves a chance to redeem themselves" card and that's fine. NFL teams are worried signing Kaepernick means they're quietly supporting his political stance, so they're not touching him with a stick.

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#56 by Raiderfan // Jul 13, 2017 - 6:55am

Well, in the media, both print and online, there were a lot of people who may have loved a redemption story, but loved dogs more, and were vehement in their opposition. What were the relative numbers? No clue. But there was a controversy, and a strong one.

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#59 by MilkmanDanimal // Jul 13, 2017 - 10:52am

It's still completely different; Vick met with Goodell after getting out of prison and was essentially given a stamp of approval for his contrition and the price he'd paid, and Goodell reinstated him. He went through a very public process of saying "I was wrong", and that leads to second chances and eventual forgiveness. Kaepernick? John Mara, one of the singly most influential owners in the league, came out and explicitly said signing Kaepernick would lead to a fan backlash, and that makes it less likely to have a team sign him.

There are a number of valid reasons why signing Kaepernick for any decent amount of money could be a questionable business decision, but I cannot even imagine a logical way that someone can look at this situation and not see that Kaepernick is being clearly and overtly blackballed by a combination of fan expectations, owners not wanting the bother, and general anger.

Simple question--if Kaepernick hadn't kneeled throughout the anthem all year instead of knuckling under and standing up again like so many other athletes, do you really think he wouldn't at least be in a camp right now?

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#62 by ChrisS // Jul 13, 2017 - 1:12pm

I agree with with most of your comment. I know a lot of people who would never forgive Vick his crimes, but probably not a high percentage of NFL fans. I don't understand why selling Kap as "I don't agree with what he said but I will fight for his right to say it" is not a winning PR campaign for getting him accepted by the vast majority of a team's fans. But then again looking at our current political landscape it's more like "off with their heads" for any and all political disagreements.

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#47 by Noahrk // Jul 12, 2017 - 12:09pm

Could be a little bit of everything: wants more money than teams want to pay him, isn't a great fit, and would be a distraction, partly of his own making, partly because of the fact he has attracted the ire of the president. If this is so, he'll probably come back eventually, once one or two of those factors settle (clearly the first two).

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#53 by Joe Pancake // Jul 12, 2017 - 5:57pm

FO should wade into politics more often. This is one of the best things I've read in a while.

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#63 by Steve in WI // Jul 13, 2017 - 1:23pm

It's also without a doubt the most reasonable and civil comment thread I've ever seen on an article related to this topic.

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#54 by Dales // Jul 12, 2017 - 9:02pm

I sincerely hope that this brief experiment in "let's have a politics & football discussion" is the last of it's kind.

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#55 by RobotBoy // Jul 13, 2017 - 1:57am

The lengths humans will go to deny admitting to the immediately evident never ceases to amaze. 'Kaep will bring a media circus' is one of those charmless euphemisms that really means, 'He's unamurrican and that pisses me off. Those malcontents need to be taught a lesson. Can have the kids questioning the status quo.' (Never mind the idiotic argument that he staged his protest so that SF wouldn't cut him! As if that would be a winning strategy in a league where he now can't get a job).' Let me point out that the most important athlete of the 20th Century, and most adored human on the planet, became those things because he refused induction into the U.S. military during a senseless, failed war because, A) African Americans still suffered in apartheid conditions and, B) African-Americans were drafted and killed at much higher rates while such great patriots as Dubya and Dick Cheney avoided the draft through string pulling.
There's a similarity here to the fear gay players have of coming out. Bigots use the same miserable, 'It creates a circus' along with, 'Why do those people have to draw attention to themselves? They should just suffer in the closet like they did during the good ol' days.' Yet the proponents of the 'circus' argument have no issue with assault, spousal abuse, or dog killing. And neither do the crooked oligarchs of the NFL.
'Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrel' remains as true now as ever. Personally I find it much more in the spirit of what's best about this country for someone to take a stand against injustice. Nonconformists are celebrated in the abstract, and on the TV screen, but in reality those who don't march in lock-step suffer consequences.
Ali's principled stance cost him four years of his prime. A half century later we're finding out how high remains.

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#67 by mehllageman56 // Jul 13, 2017 - 4:28pm

I think it is more likely most teams are avoiding him, if they are even in a position to sign the guy, because of fan backlash, and not the actual opinions of the general managers or coaches themselves. The Giants owner said as much in an interview on the subject. You are correct, it's sad how little we have come since the 60s. I would have preferred the Jets to sign him and not McCown, but I doubt Woody Johnson would ever agree to it.

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#58 by Last of the Sk… // Jul 13, 2017 - 9:14am

Exactly... Seattle would be a fine place for him to be backup as well. And I would think Pete Carroll of all people would be the perfect coach to ease him into that role. I assume it was ownership that kiboshed that deal.

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#65 by Steve in WI // Jul 13, 2017 - 1:53pm

I'm honestly surprised and disappointed that Kaepernick remains unemployed and appears to be finished in the NFL. I thought that by now some team would have taken advantage of the chance to buy low and see if he still could be a starter.

It bothers me how many people assume that he won't sign on as a backup or expects at least $X per year when he has never said anything to that effect, and as far as I know there are not even reports citing anonymous sources in his circle saying that. It's an easy way for people to disregard what seems to be happening and put the blame on him for demanding too much.

That said, it also bothers me how some people who support Kaepernick are, either intentionally or because they don't follow football closely, exaggerating his recent performance and his likely potential. That he was quarterback when the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl 4 years ago means very little. He did play solid football in a very small sample size last season, but that's not enough to say "of course he should be a starter somewhere." His game does have flaws.

But then I think it's equally reductive to say that he's just not good enough when there are fewer than 32 good quarterbacks in the league, and certainly fewer than 64. He may not be good enough to be signed to be the unquestioned starter, but he is certainly good enough to be on a roster and at least competing for a backup spot if nothing else. Good quarterbacks are so difficult to find that when one with some talent/potential is available at low risk, you pick him up and see if he has any value to you.

My opinion is that he is being blackballed and a hypothetical player with exactly his traits and statistics but no controversial political statements would definitely be on a roster somewhere, and if cut would be on a different roster within a few days.

Points: 0

#68 by jtr // Jul 13, 2017 - 4:49pm

Griffin, like Kaepernick, has always had to rely on his physical tools to overcome a flawed skillset as a pure passer. The difference is that Griffin's athleticism was annihilated by his knee injury at the end of his rookie season, and in the several seasons since then he's shown no evidence that his athleticism has returned. At least with Kaep, you know you'll get electrifying athleticism if nothing else. And that's a lot more than can be said about a number of QB's on rosters right now.

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#76 by Steve in WI // Jul 14, 2017 - 1:38pm

He played worse than Kaepernick in 2016 and he's got an extensive injury history. As others have said, both QBs relied greatly on their athleticism; the difference is that Griffin's is probably gone at this point.

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#77 by MilkmanDanimal // Jul 14, 2017 - 2:36pm

Griffin has also repeatedly shown that he doesn't understand that the athleticism is gone, and keeps trying to evade hits like he could as a rookie. That's led to him getting repeatedly injured, because he seemingly just won't accept he can't run like he used to.

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#79 by lowsmoke // Jul 16, 2017 - 1:02pm

Colin Kaepernick's unemployment has a simple explanation: his passing performance over the last two seasons was horrendous. His DYAR was -182 in 2015 and -149 in 2016, and his DYAR was -21.5% in 2015 and -17.7% in 2016. Granted, if you go back a ways he had better seasons. But it is often the case that a football player's performance will nosedive, never to recover. At this point, at best he is a risky bet, even as a backup.

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#80 by ChrisS // Jul 17, 2017 - 10:12am

I don't think Kap is a very good QB, but he is probably better than 4-5 starters and the vast majority of back-ups. SF is a very-very bad team with little offensive talent and that contributed somewhat to those numbers. Gabbert starting 8 & 5 games in 2015 and 2016 for SF put up DYARs of -118 & -158 and DVOA's of -15.6% and -25.4%. But comparing a player favorably (and just barely favorable) to Gabbert certainly epitomizes "damning with faint praise". Cerainly contracts make the QB starter situation sticky and if you think Kap is only a bit beeter than your current QB it is probably not worth the trouble and cost to change QB's.

Points: 0

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