Colin Kaepernick’s lawyer says he could be signed — but by whom?
A breakdown of each team’s quarterback situation to determine where there might be an opening for the free agent
Colin Kaepernick has been on the outside looking in at the NFL since the end of the 2016 season. The widespread belief among players and civil rights activists is that owners despise the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback for igniting the protest during the anthem movement, which has infuriated the league’s fans, alarmed its advertisers and occupied much of commissioner Roger Goodell’s time. But perhaps Kaepernick’s face won’t be pressed against the glass much longer.
On a radio program this week, Mark Geragos, who represents Kaepernick in the collusion grievance he recently filed against the NFL, said he expects the accomplished passer to be signed shortly. “I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” Geragos said on The Adam Carolla Show. “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.”
If Geragos is correct, a quarterback with the fifth-best touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of all time and 58 career starts, including two in NFC championship games and one in the Super Bowl, will finally get back in the game. The question is where.
The Undefeated analyzed each team’s quarterback situation, trying to determine where there might be an opening for Kaepernick. In addition to evaluating situations on a football-only basis, we factored in how Kaepernick’s social activism — he first sat and then knelt last season in an effort to shine a light on systemic racism in the U.S. — might affect the number of teams truly interested in the free agent.
Remember: It’s not a question of whether Kaepernick is talented enough to be on a roster. Privately, many people throughout the league acknowledge he still has game. What’s unclear, though, is whether the league’s apparent hard-line position toward hiring Kaepernick has softened at all.
Football-only outlook: No team has ever been more in need of a makeover at football’s most important position. Carson Palmer was once one of the game’s best, but the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner is on injured reserve and turns 38 in December. Blaine Gabbert is on the right side of 30, but, well, he’s no good: In his career, Gabbert is 9-31. Kaepernick, too, is under 30 (until Friday, anyway) and, more importantly, much better than Gabbert, whom he replaced as the 49ers’ starter last season.
The social activism factor: President Donald Trump received 48.1 percent of the vote in Arizona in the 2016 election. We don’t see the Cardinals as a landing spot for Kaepernick.
Football-only outlook: Matt Ryan, who’s coming off an MVP season that ended in the Super Bowl, hasn’t been nearly as good in 2017. Still, he’s an upper-echelon player. As a backup, Matt Schaub is no threat to Ryan, which is good for team harmony.
The social activism factor: Black folks are down with the Falcons, which bodes well for Kaepernick. Atlanta, however, is in the Deep South. Signing Kaepernick wouldn’t fly with much of the fan base.
Football-only outlook: After absorbing a big hit by Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, Joe Flacco has cleared concussion protocol and is scheduled to start in the Ravens’ next game. The proven winner is having a so-so season. Holding a clipboard on the sideline is backup Ryan Mallett’s only discernible skill.
The social activism factor: After a whole lot of public back-and-forth this summer, the Ravens backed away from signing Kaepernick. Even with Mallett behind Flacco, we don’t see any reason that they would suddenly embrace him now.
Football-only outlook: Tyrod Taylor is completing a career-high 63.8 percent of his passes for the Bills, who are 5-2. The Bills are comfortable with Taylor’s backups.
The social activism factor: Nowhere was Kaepernick booed louder last season than in western New York. Just saying.
Football-only outlook: Cam Newton has had a whole lot going on this season. With 11 interceptions, Newton is tied for the league lead.
The social activism factor: Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has expressed his disdain for anthem protests. That’s all you need to know.
Football-only lookout: Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, replaced veteran Mike Glennon as the Bears’ starter. The Bears are all in on Trubisky.
The social activism factor: Bears fans love former head coach Mike Ditka, Polish sausage and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Get it?
Football-only outlook: Andy Dalton got off to a horrible start during the Bengals’ awful start. Some Bengals observers actually raised the idea of the team signing Kaepernick. Obviously, it didn’t happen.
The social activism factor: Another fan base that wasn’t impressed with Kaepernick’s off-the-field moves. We’ll just leave it at that.
Football-only outlook: There’s only one way to put this: The 0-8 Browns are a hot mess on and off the field. In the past two drafts, they’ve passed on Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson. Clearly, Kaepernick makes sense.
The social activism factor: In the Midwest, they love their football and the flag. Clearly, Kaepernick doesn’t make sense.
Football-only outlook: In his second season, Dak Prescott has reaffirmed that he’s the real deal. He’ll have more on his shoulders when/if superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott serves a six-game suspension. Fortunately for the Cowboys, Prescott has broad shoulders.
The social activism factor: Powerful Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to flout U.S. labor law to punish players who demonstrate. Kaepernick is the face of the movement. Forget ’bout those Cowboys.
Football-only outlook: Trevor Siemian has been benched in favor of Brock Osweiler, who’s not very good and already bombed last season with the Houston Texans. The Broncos are still waiting for former first-round pick Paxton Lynch to get it.
The social activism factor: Denver general manager John Elway has said players should stand during the anthem. On many issues, Elway has been vocal in his support for Trump. He also has appeared at GOP fundraising events in the Denver area. This doesn’t appear to be a good fit.
Football-only outlook: Matthew Stafford is firmly entrenched in his position atop the depth chart.
The social activism factor: In an effort to persuade Lions players to stop kneeling, Detroit owner Martha Ford offered to donate money and her name to community issues important to players. Again, Kaepernick ignited the protest movement.
Green Bay Packers
Football-only outlook: Aaron Rodgers, the best quarterback in the NFL, could be out for the remainder of the season with a broken collarbone. Second-year quarterback Brett Hundley has struggled in place of Rodgers. Kaepernick would make sense.
The social activism factor: Another heartland team. Nope.
Football-only outlook: In a really big way, the Texans got it right on sensational rookie Deshaun Watson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Thursday. Tom Savage will start for the Texans, who are expected to sign Matt McGloin as a backup.
The social activism factor: Houston owner Bob McNair caused a big problem with his poor word choice during an owners meeting to discuss the protests. This doesn’t appear to be a match.
Football-only outlook: Pro Bowler Andrew Luck will sit out this season because of shoulder problems. The Colts acquired second-year starter Jacoby Brissett from the New England Patriots. Things aren’t going great for the Colts, who are in last place in the AFC South. You could see a union between the Colts and Kaepernick.
The social activism factor: Just don’t see it because, well, this is Vice President Mike Pence’s home turf.
Football-only outlook: Blake Bortles is coming off arguably his best game of the season in a 27-0 victory over the Colts. In his fourth season, Bortles is still trying to prove he’s a franchise quarterback. Kaepernick could help.
The social activism factor: On the one hand, owner Shad Khan has spoken out against Trump. On the other hand, Khan also is down with the president — dude is a Trump donor. Real talk.
Kansas City Chiefs
Football-only outlook: Alex Smith has been sensational — how else would one describe 16 touchdown passes and zero interceptions? — for Kansas City, which is atop the AFC West. Rookie Patrick Mahomes is the future. The Chiefs are set.
The social activism factor: It doesn’t matter.
LoS ANGELES Chargers
Football-only outlook: Philip Rivers is having another strong season statistically with the Chargers.
The social activism factor: Nothing to see here.
Los Angeles Rams
Football-only outlook: Under the tutelage of first-year Rams head coach Sean McVay, Jared Goff suddenly looks like he can play.
The social activism factor: Rams won’t go there.
Football-only outlook: Despite dealing with injured ribs, Jay Cutler returns to lead the Miami Dolphins’ awful offense.
The social activism factor: Remember when Kaepernick defended former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and wore a T-shirt that featured Castro along with Malcolm X? Many angry Dolphins fans haven’t forgotten.
Football-only outlook: While Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford continue on the long road back from injuries, Case Keenum is leading the offense for the Minnesota Vikings. Another spot that makes sense for someone with Kaepernick’s experience.
The social activism factor: Again, an area of the country (with an all-in fan base) that likely won’t be receptive to the beloved football team bringing in a QB who’s all-in with the Black Lives Matter movement.
New England Patriots
Football-only outlook: Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was the only quarterback on the roster until the New England Patriots signed Brian Hoyer on Wednesday.
The social activism factor: Like Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who’s close to Trump, would really sign Kaepernick. Get real.
New Orleans Saints
Football-only outlook: Drew Brees is still on top of his game for the Saints, who lead the NFC South.
The social activism factor: No way.
New York Giants
Football-only outlook: At 1-6, the injury-ravaged Giants are awful. Considering everything, Eli Manning hasn’t been terrible. That’s something.
The social activism factor: Don’t see this working here either.
New York Jets
Football-only outlook: Actually, Josh McCown has been much better than, well, a lot of Jets observers probably figured he would be. Kaepernick could help though.
The social activism factor: Won’t happen. Jets owner Woody Johnson is Trump’s ambassador to Britain.
Football-only outlook: Derek Carr has proved he’s a franchise quarterback, but the Raiders are in a rough place. Kaepernick would be a better backup than EJ Manuel.
The social activism factor: Open-minded owner Mark Davis was cool with adding strong-willed running back Marshawn Lynch. This doesn’t seem crazy. Really.
Football-only outlook: Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz has the Eagles flying high. He sure looks like the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
The social activism factor: Famously, Eagles fans once booed and threw snowballs at a man in a Santa Claus outfit. Yeah. This is a fit.
Football-only outlook: Ben Roethlisberger is still Ben Roethlisberger.
The social activism factor: Another nonstarter.
San Francisco 49ers
Football-only outlook: The 49ers recently traded for former New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
The social activism factor: Team management supports the movement. But a 49ers-Kaepernick reunion is highly unlikely.
Football-only outlook: Russell Wilson is only getting better.
The social activism factor: Kaepernick would be fine in the Seahawks’ culture. But Seattle previously passed on a chance to sign him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Football-only outlook: Despite a 2-5 record, the organization is totally behind Jameis Winston.
The social activism factor: Don’t hold your breath.
Football-only outlook: Marcus Mariota figures to be with the Tennessee Titans a long time: The Titans are tied for first in the AFC South.
The social activism factor: We’re talking about the Deep South.
Football-only outlook: Kirk Cousins is counting down the days until he can escape from Washington.
The social activism factor: Owner Daniel Snyder is a big-time supporter of Trump.