Colin Kaepernick’s last game in an NFL uniform came on January 1, 2017. The 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks 25-23, and Kaepernick was 17-of-22 passing with 215 yards and one touchdown.
The signal-caller hasn’t been able to find another team in the NFL willing to sign him since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers. Many have speculated that teams wouldn’t bring Kaepernick in as a free agent due to his choice to kneel during the national anthem throughout the 2016 season. Kaepernick sued the NFL for collusion in 2017, as he felt he was blacklisted by the owners due to his protest. The two sides settled out of court.
The NFL arranged a tryout for Kaepernick in November, but disagreement between the league and Kaepernick’s attorneys led to the QB hosting his own workout at a high school in the Atlanta area, about 60 miles from the Atlanta Falcons facility. Kaepernick showed he’s still got some of that trademark arm strength.
Now that the tragic death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department has brought the issue of police brutality and racism front and center in the United States, many have reflected on the roots of Kaepernick’s protest more than three years ago. The NFL also has acknowledged that it hasn’t done enough to combat the issue, and vowed to listen to its players more during a social media post from commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday. Goodell, however, did not mention Kaepernick specifically in his statement.
If the league finally reversed course and an organization decided to consider signing Kaepernick, what team would be the best situation for him to join after three full seasons away from the NFL? Here are five squads that could benefit from bringing the 32-year-old quarterback in.
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After franchise staple Ben Roethlisberger injured his elbow in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh wasn’t left with a lot of talent at the game’s most important position. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges put together an admirable effort the rest of the way, but the Steelers finished 8-8 despite featuring a top-five scoring defense in 2019.
Roethlisberger also turned 38 in March, and likely doesn’t have many starter-quality years left in the NFL. Kaepernick is six years younger -- and with Big Ben coming off an injury -- the ex-49er could help keep the offense afloat for Pittsburgh in case Roethlisberger can’t return to his previous form.
New England Patriots
This likely would provide Kaepernick the best opportunity to be a starter right away. Franchise icon and proverbial GOAT QB Tom Brady departed this offseason in free agency, and many expect coach Bill Belichick to hand the keys over to untested young quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Kaepernick at the very least could give Stidham some stiff competition in training camp, if not win the starting job outright.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, which could decrease the odds New England signs Kap. Trump famously called Kaepernick a “son of a b---h” and said he should be “fired” for kneeling during the national anthem back in 2016.
The Jaguars have dealt with ineptitude at the quarterback position for many years. Gardner Minshew didn’t exactly set the NFL on fire in his rookie season, but 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions over 14 games did inspire some hope in Jacksonville.
Quarterbacks have shown a tendency to regress in their second season, and Kaepernick could serve both as a solid backup option and a mentor for the 24-year-old Minshew. Jacksonville traded former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to Chicago this offseason, and currently, has Mike Glennon slated to be the backup for the Jaguars.
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Matthew Stafford has been one of the most prolific passers in the NFL over the past decade. The gunslinger topped 4,500 yards in three consecutive seasons from 2011-13 but has dropped off in recent years.
He only played eight games in 2019 after breaking bones in his back. Stafford reportedly is 100 percent recovered from the injury, but has taken plenty of shots over his 11-year career.
Trade rumors swirled around Stafford early last season, and he even put his $6.5 million Michigan home on the market in May. Kaepernick would be a nice insurance policy for Stafford, and even has a similarly powerful throwing arm.
The Lions did agree to terms with Chase Daniel on a three-year deal in March to be Stafford's backup.
Matt Ryan did win the NFL MVP just four years ago, but he hasn’t returned to near that level since offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan departed for the 49ers.
Ryan’s numbers have declined, and he led the NFL after being sacked 48 times in 2019. Although Matt Schaub has been a serviceable backup, including throwing for 460 yards in his lone start last season, he’s 38 years old and likely isn’t much of an upgrade over Kap, if at all.
Kaepernick’s added athletic ability also could bring a different element to Atlanta’s offense in case of Ryan’s absence.