More than a week into NFL free agency, Colin Kaepernick is still on the market. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback his contract last season to make it a one-year deal with a player option for 2017, and Kaepernick that option in early March.
On some level, it’s not entirely surprising that he’s still on the market. Plenty of other players are still unsigned, after all, and for various reasons. But because Kaepernick is who he is, there are multiple theories as to why he has not yet found a new home, or even much interest from any teams looking for quarterback help.
One AFC general manager told Bleacher Report that there are three reasons Kap is still available:
“He can still play at a high level. The problem is three things are happening with him.
“First, some teams genuinely believe that he can’t play. They think he’s shot. I’d put that number around 20 percent.
“Second, some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him. They think there might be protests or [President Donald] Trump will tweet about the team. I’d say that number is around 10 percent. Then there’s another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.
“Third, the rest genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”
OK, so let’s unpack this quote.
First, 20 percent of NFL teams (six or seven out of 32) that genuinely believe Kaepernick can’t play. They have some pretty convincing evidence on their side. Over the last three seasons, Kaepernick is 11-24 as a starter and has completed only 59.7 percent of his passes at 6.9 yards per attempt, with an 85.9 passer rating. Every one of those numbers is considerably below league average during that time period. Kap has added 1,363 rushing yards and four touchdowns during those three seasons, but the value he has added as a runner does not entirely make up for the below-average passing skills.
Second, 10 percent of NFL teams (three or four out of 32) are afraid of backlash from fans or that the president of the United States will tweet something about their team. There was a segment of fans who werewith (or about?) Kaepernick last season after he elected for the national anthem as a sign of protest against police brutality. Mean tweets from the president, as we have seen with several issues, are not out of the realm of possibility. The president famously that Kaepernick find a new country to live in after Kaepernick to him as “openly racist.”
The other 70 percent of NFL teams (21-23) “hate him and can’t stand what he did,” which seems a bit harsh, but is also maybe not that NFL executive last year called Kaepernick a “traitor” and said he was the most disliked NFL player since Rae Carruth -- who literally murdered somebody. That was all before Kaepernick won the 49ers’ Len Eshmont award, having been voted by his teammates as the 49er who “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont.”since an
NFL teams are typically among the most risk-averse organizations anywhere, though, and though they’re willing to weather controversy of any kind if the player involved can still contribute at a high level. They will almost always stay away if the evidence points to the player not being able to make a difference on the field.