Which NFL team will take a chance on Colin Kaepernick?
June 11, 2020
In the 2016 NFL season, Quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled before games during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. It was seen by many as disrespecting the flag. Since opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March of 2017, Kaepernick has remained unsigned. He did not play in a football game in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Kaepernick could not get a job in the NFL because he decided to take a stand against what he saw as racial injustice. As he stated at the time, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
The NFL , under pressure from President Trump and some fans, adopted a new national anthem policy before the 2018 season that required players to stand if they are on the field during the performance of the national anthem but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer. They had swept the issue and Kaepernick under the rug. But it was a stopgap policy solution.
The murder of a black man by a white policeman in Minneapolis changed that thinking. In the wake of George Floyd's death and the resulting nationwide protests against rational injustice, the National Football League has now decided that it might be time to admit that they were wrong about the national anthem policy.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted in a statement: "We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest." There was no apology to Kaepernick and for many NFL players the statement did not go far enough.
Kaepernick has been blackballed from the NFL the past three seasons. He was just too much of a distraction for most NFL teams and no NFL owner wanted to take the political heat from the President and the public. As the President told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, "This is a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody, you can't win this one. This one lifts me."
The question now is, what team would be interested in Kaepernick at this point in his career? He is 32 years old and has not thrown a football in a game since 2016. Every NFL team has their starting quarterback for the 2020 NFL season and many already have a good backup on the roster. Kaepernick would likely get a one-year deal for about $1 million, with incentives. Most NFL teams do not have a lot of salary cap space left.
Kaepernick earned $14.3 million in 2016 playing quarterback for the 49ers. Playing for $1 million almost seems like a slap in the face. Kaepernick, in his second NFL season, took the 49ers to the Superbowl in the 2012 season, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31. Kaepernick was a 2nd round draft pick out of Nevada in 2011. At Nevada, Kaepernick ran the "pistol offense," an offense that requires a dual threat quarterback. In 2009, Nevada led the nation in rushing at 345 yards a game and they were second in total offense at 506 yards per game.
After drafting Kaepernick, the 49ers decided to incorporate aspects of the pistol offense for Kaepernick. The 49ers' pistol offense worked well and the highlight came in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs, when Kaepernick set a single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 181 yards as the 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 45–31.
An NFL team bringing in Kaepernick as a backup needs to be willing to change some of their offensive scheme to fully utilize his skills. He might be a good fit for the Baltimore Ravens, where they run the pistol and the offensive coordinator is Greg Roman, his offensive coordinator in San Francisco. But the starting quarterback is the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2019 Lamar Jackson and the backup is Robert Griffin III, who has a 2020 salary of $2 million.
The other issue for Kaepernick is that he was 3-16 in his last 19 games as a starter with the 49ers. He threw 22 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, averaging only 177 yards per game in those 19 games. If a team decides to bring him in as a backup, he will need time to learn the offense and he will need to be comfortable in his role as a backup.
With the current coronavirus crisis and with most teams not really needing a quarterback at this point, the wiser decision might be to sit out another season and find a team that will fully utilize his skills and give himself some time to learn the offense and get comfortable with his receivers. With the Presidential election in November, it may be easier for Kaepernick to just play football after that is done.