Colin Kaepernick spearheaded a high-profile and controversial protest movement. He opted out of his 49ers contract to become a free agent. He remains unsigned. People with political bents on all sides have begun reading what they want into this. But, the fact is there are many valid football reasons Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned.
Quarterback is a Specialized Position
This isn’t signing an extra cornerback you can more or less plug and play. There are few spots available. Coaches have specific wants/needs. It’s more like dating than a straight-forward market. One team being really into Mike Glennon does not say much about the broad market for other players.
Kaepernick, moreover, has a specific skill-set. He’s a better runner than he is a passer. He requires a coaching staff to adjust to him. That’s not to say it can’t be done. He found success with Jim Harbaugh, though even then he had his critics. Not every staff wants to do that. Kaepernick has not quite shown he’s worth doing that for of late.
There Aren’t That Many Starting Options For Him
Kaepernick is probably around a bottom tier starter. Teams that “have a quarterback” won’t view him as an upgrade. There aren’t that many opportunities with teams that do not have one. Some have high draft picks. Some have unrelated dominoes to fall that need sorting out. Let’s run through some obvious destinations.
Cleveland has the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks. They flamed out making a similar signing of RG3 last year. Whether it’s drafting a quarterback or trading for Jimmy Garoppolo, the Browns are looking elsewhere.
The Jets, as a team without an established starting quarterback, might make sense. They just signed Josh McCown as a stop gap on a one-year deal. All signs point to them going quarterback with their draft pick, and being in full rebuild mode. We don’t know if Colin Kaepernick would have considered a one-year deal for high-end backup money.
Kaepernick is not likely to return to San Francisco, one of the other remaining options with a clear need at the position, after opting out of his contract to get out. Chicago, as noted before, just went big on Mike Glennon.
Houston and Denver need quarterbacks. Both are waiting for the Tony Romo situations to play out. Jay Cutler, who has finished Top 10 in QBR more recently than Kaepernick, is also a free agent.
The Backup Roles Aren’t No-Brainers
Sure, Kansas City may be looking for another viable option to Alex Smith. Do the Chiefs bring in the guy who beat him out for the San Francisco job five years ago as his backup? If you have a young starting quarterback (Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Blake Bortles), do you bring in a Kaepernick to compete with him? Maybe Minnesota, behind Sam Bradford, if Teddy Bridgewater is still a no go.
Is Kaepernick willing to go into a situation where he would be the obvious backup? Would he be willing to go into a situation where he would be paid the salary of an obvious backup?
That’s Not to Say The Flag Protest Isn’t Significant
NFL teams are predisposed to stay away from distractions, political or not, especially if the distractions are not justified by the on-field production. It’s entirely feasible some coaches/owners may balk in situations where he might make sense. Would Jerry Richardson and Ron Rivera bring Kaepernick in as a hedge against Cam Newton not coming right back from his rotator cuff injury? It’s possible, but one team opting against it is not collusion.
It’s possible NFL owners are colluding against signing Kaepernick. But, it’s way too early to make that claim. If Cutler signs, the Romo situation sorts itself out, the NFL Draft happens, injuries occur, Kaepernick is flexible with his demands, and he’s still not on a roster with the season starts, collusion would be something to investigate. But, it’s March 22nd. We’re a long way from that point.