Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. That is weird.
The 2018 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror. It was a pretty good class of freshman quarterbacks. Passer-starved franchises like the Browns and Jets picked up long-term answers at the position with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Following Carson Palmer’s retirement, the Arizona Cardinals picked UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who should benefit from a stable and scandal-free climate in Phoenix. Having Larry Fitzgerald around will help. Good picks by all three teams. Expect at least two of those guys to be big stars down the line.
The Bills and Ravens took riskier bets. Buffalo gambled that they could fix Josh Allen’s accuracy issues and harness his cannon arm, while Baltimore bets they can refine Lamar Jackson’s footwork while featuring him in some special packages while they wait for Joe Flacco’s large contract to be lifted off their backs. My money is on the blackbirds over the nearly extinct megafauna in that contest.
Lesser known, but capable passers were picked up in the later rounds. Mason Rudolph will hold Big Ben’s clipboard and should be able to step in and shepherd the Steelers through the couple of games Rothlisberger misses each year due to injuries. Kyle Lauletta will be groomed as a potential replacement for Eli Manning at the Meadowlands. The Bengals drafted Logan Woodside, who helmed the Toledo Rockets to the MAC Championship in 2017, qualifying him to stand around looking like AJ McCarron for four years until Buffalo signs him.
Between this year’s draft and the free agent season, a good many of the NFL’s quarterback jobs are filled for the upcoming campaign. That leaves me pondering the fate of the league’s longest suffering free agent, Amnesty International’s 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Colin Kaepernick.
But Doesn’t He Suck?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: No, really.
Much longer answer: Oh for Pete’s sake I will tell the whole story because I find it fascinating.
Kaepernick was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the 36th pick by the San Francisco 49ers. He stepped in for starter Alex Smith after he suffered a concussion against the Rams. Kap retained the job for the rest of the season, a season that ended with a dramatic loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. Incidentally, Baltimore’s unlikely run through the AFC playoffs and Super Bowl victory are what landed Joe Flacco the ridiculous contract hampering the Raven’s rebuilding effort.
Smith moved to Kansas City for the 2013 season, and Kaepernick took over as the starter. He led the 49ers back to the conference championship game, but lost to the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks. In 2014, he produced a solid season, but the 49ers fell to 8-8 as the NFC West became a meat grinder of a division, and coach Jim Harbaugh’s drill sergeant cosplay routine started a locker room revolt.
The 2015 season was a mess. Not ready for prime time, coach Jim Tomsula tried to put together a winner with the players that Harbaugh had not driven away or into early retirement. After a Week 8 loss to the Rams, Kaepernick was benched in favor of Jaguars castoff and Jane Austen character Blaine Gabbert. Then he was sidelined for the rest of the year after it was discovered he would need shoulder surgery.
Chip Kelly, Kneeling and blackballing?
2016 saw the installation of Chip Kelly as head coach. Kelly had a reputation as an offensive innovator in college and Philadelphia. He took one look at the 49ers quarterback depth chart and decided Gabbert would be his starter. He changed his mind in Week 6 and switched to Kaepernick. After a bad game against the Bears, he switched again. Then he switched again. Kelly was not a good NFL head coach and San Francisco finished the year 2-14.
Considering the circus atmosphere, it is actually kind of surprising anyone noticed he was not standing for the National Anthem in preseason games, leading to everyone from fans to President Trump to lose their minds. You are likely familiar with the rest of the story by now.
Kaepernick entered the 2017 season as a free agent and spent the entire season looking for work. Ex-players and radio jocks bent over backward to handwave away the obvious implications. Serious analysts understand that Colin Kaepernick is (still) being blackballed by NFL owners.
Seriously, as 538 Sports extensively researched, there is absolutely zero precedence for a player who has performed at the level Kaepernick did even in a wild and wacky 2016 season to not have a spot on an NFL roster if they were healthy or willing. They might get benched. They might have to sign a one-year prove it contract. They might have to wait for a starter to get hurt. But they do not spend 16 games watching on TV. When looking at his stats, Kaepernick is comfortably within the average to better than average class of passers.
Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid are both suing the NFL. They should win.
Where Does Colin Kaepernick Fit?
Colin will be 31 this November, and it has been awhile since he threw a pass in anger. All indications are that he still wants to play and is maintaining his football shape. So assuming that NFL executives get their heads out of their nether regions or grow a spine, where is the best fit for a dual-threat athlete with a good history of ball protection and a rocket arm? We will use Ourlads Depth Charts by position to find some landing spots.
Miami Dolphins: Kaepernick is not the only quarterback that has not thrown a pass since 2016. Ryan Tannehill missed all of last year with a knee injury. This was probably exhibit A in the case for blackballing, as Miami preferred to drag Jay Cutler out of his brief retirement rather than take a chance on signing a player that ticks off season ticket holders with MAGA hats. Speaking of ossified, the Dolphins signed Brock Osweiler as their top backup.
Indianapolis Colts: Another veteran who missed all of 2017, Andrew Luck, currently sits atop the Colts’ depth chart. The status of Luck’s shoulder has been a mystery for a year, with conflicting reports as recently as this February as to whether he would need further surgery. Jacoby Brissett had a lot of success after coming over from New England, but he might be stretched as a long-term starter.
Houston Texans: The Texans looked like a Super Bowl contender with rookie whirlwind Deshaun Watson under center. His knee injury (in practice no less) destroyed that hope. Instead of having a veteran with a similar skillset ready to go on the bench, the Texans practically pulled guys out of the stands to take reps at quarterback. Wait, no, that is Tom Savage. The Texans currently list Brandon Weeden as their backup, proving that they are happy to make the same mistake twice.
Anywhere else: Seriously, look at those depth charts. There are around 75 NFL quarterback jobs available in any season. There are some staggeringly terrible football players cashing those paychecks. Considering the injury risk and the importance of the position, it is criminally negligent for 32 NFL teams to avoid Kaepernick.
Canada: It is cold in Canada.
In conclusion, Colin Kaepernick is at minimum a league-average passer, who would fit on almost any team in football. Somebody pay the man.
Featured image from Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
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