Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned. His recent teammate, Blaine Gabbert, just signed a league-minimum deal with Arizona (for a player of Gabbert’s tenure, entering his 7th year, that should be $900,000 for 2017). That move prompted our Kyle Koster to ask what we are supposed to think of Kaepernick remaining unsigned.
It also was Tim Kawakami’s line of demarcation in judging whether the league was blackballing Colin Kaepernick. Kawakami wrote an article on that and the leaks coming out of the San Francisco 49ers organization (via MMQB).
One of the factors we haven’t known is what Kaepernick’s contract demands have been through this process. If he wants $10 million and Gabbert is signing for the league minimum, that is incomparable. Of course, in order to know what he wants, teams would have to try to negotiate. According to Kawakami, as well as Charles Robinson of Yahoo!, that hasn’t happened.
A source tells me that Kaepernick to this point has had no serious talks with any team about a contract and has had no meetings, which means he has not demanded a starting role or a $10M salary or a $5M salary or any of the other things circulating among the NFL gossip mill recently.
There is zero evidence that any team has come anywhere close to signing Kaepernick, and a source close to Kaepernick told me yesterday that they have not discussed even general money terms with anybody this offseason.
And Kaepernick is not demanding a guaranteed starting role. How could he if he hasn’t had a single serious conversation with a team?
I don’t know if Kaepernick would accept a bare minimum contract like Blaine Gabbert (!!! More on Gabbert in a bit), who just reportedly signed with Arizona to be the second- or third-string QB behind Carson Palmer, but I do know, from the same source, that not a single team has asked if he would accept it.
So how could Kaepernick be demanding anything of anybody? To thin air? It doesn’t make sense, unless we’re talking Fake Information World.
And here is Charles Robinson, who calls the financial barrier to signing “bogus” since no one has even gotten to that point.
And thus far, not one NFL source has been able to confirm to Yahoo Sports any number that Kaepernick is looking for in terms of contract price or even structure. In turn, not even one NFL team is confirmed to have had any financial talks with Kaepernick. By all accounts, the financial barrier to Kaepernick landing with a team appears to be bogus at this stage.
Like Kawakami, I am not one who immediately jumped to the league blackballing. I wasn’t ruling it out, but I also felt the factual circumstances were not ripe. I wrote a satirical piece about teams blackballing Jay Cutler for his pro-Trump views in March, because at the time, with Cutler, Tony Romo, and lots of draft work to be done, the quarterback ecosystem was unsettled.
Now, we are almost two weeks post-draft, Jay Cutlerand Tony Romo have retired and gone into broadcasting, and we are at the Blaine Gabbert stage of the quarterback process. And there has been zero credible reporting of a team even kicking the tires on Kaepernick as a top-level backup or bridge starter. (I just came up with that term “kicking the tires,” by the way, I think it might stick.)
Kaepernick is not among the top 20 NFL quarterbacks anymore, and that’s why it wouldn’t surprise me that he got little interest early in free agency. But he is among the Top 40, in a league where we could insert about 50 names on rosters and say “do you want him starting a meaningful game?” For Arizona, who already rolled with Ryan Lindley in a playoff game, the answer is obviously “yes” for Blaine Gabbert.
I get the distraction and divisiveness of signing Colin Kaepernick initially. As we’ve repeatedly seen throughout history, it’s far more dangerous to challenge ideas and entrenched institutions than commit individual crimes. The Joe Mixon blowback for Cincinnati was minimal, and teams aren’t going to shy way from those kind of moves if most fans don’t care. A large segment of fans would hate signing Colin Kaepernick, far more than the Mixon signing. On the other hand, if he goes unsigned, a large segment will have distracting questions for the league throughout the year.
But this isn’t just a “hold a clipboard” thing. This isn’t a third string QB scenario. Having a competent backup often matters. I wrote that the Jaguars would be the ideal team for Kaepernick because Blake Bortles is in a make-or-break year, and I stand by that (even if Shahid Khan, owner, made donations to Trump–but also criticized his immigration move). Fifty-four quarterbacks started a game last year in the NFL, out of quality, necessity, or otherwise.
Here are some guys who showed they could play in the league early, but then fell out of favor (for a variety of reasons) and had to get second or third chances elsewhere, often starting as backup: Steve Beuerlein, Chris Chandler, Kerry Collins, Steve DeBerg, Rich Gannon, Jim Harbaugh, Brad Johnson, Craig Morton, Jake Plummer, Vinny Testaverde, Michael Vick, Kurt Warner, and Doug Williams. Kaepernick’s path isn’t that unusual, and taking chances on him–on pure football reasons–is a far better move than signing never-beens at the position.
But this certainly doesn’t seem to be just about football. Back in March, John Harbaugh spoke out and dismissed the notion that Kaepernick was being frozen out.
“I would never use just a generic, stupid term like that to describe a more complicated type of situation,” Harbaugh said, via the Washington Times. “I just think it’s too easy. It’s intellectually lazy. To me, I think that it’s more nuanced. And I do think that people are, yeah, I absolutely think he’s going to get signed. I think he’ll probably be starting somewhere [in 2017].”
“He’s too good a player,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, he’s got to prove himself as a player. Colin knows that, he’d be the first to tell you that. You know, when you’re the quarterback and you don’t win, you’re going to have to answer for that. But he’ll get a chance again. Someone’s going to sign him and he’ll play in this league probably for a long time.”
Free agency has now settled. The draft is over. There are no other unknowns. If Harbaugh (who earlier said he would sign him but the Baltimore Ravens aren’t in the market, because why would you want to upgrade from Ryan Mallett?) doesn’t want those words to appear foolish in a few months, he may have to take it on himself. No one else even wants to ask.