Should Your Team Sign Colin Kaepernick?

The NFL season is finishing up the first week of the regular season, and if you pay any attention to football you’re aware that Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent. At this point, it feels like we’ve finally gotten past people on TV arguing that this is simply football related (FS1 excluded). Kaepernick gained widespread attention along with split condemnation and support last year when he began kneeling during the National Anthem, which he did in protest of the way African American men are discriminated against and marginalized by the criminal justice system (a very complicated issue I’m not going to delve into in this post). This post is going to (almost entirely) stick to football concerns.

 

While every team seems to have a similar PR fear of signing Kaepernick, any sports team’s most important job is to win, and at some point it makes sense for Kaepernick’s potential benefit to a team to outweigh the negatives of signing him.

First things first I want to note his football credentials to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Last season, Kaepernick played in 12 games and threw for 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, or 1.25 TD/game and .33 INT/game. The other NFL QBs with rates that good last season having played at least as many games are: Tom Brady and Dak Prescott. Sam Bradford is the only other QB  to meet the INT criterion, and there are 19 total QBs who threw a touchdown at least as often. Brady played 12 games and threw 28 TDs and only 2 INTs, which is superhuman, and Prescott had 23 TDs and just 4 INTs in 16 games, phenomenal particularly for a rookie.

 

As you would expect, it’s unheard of for a QB coming off the type of season Kaepernick had last year to go unsigned for so long, which FiveThirtyEight put together a concise graphic for.

 

So let’s call the general PR aversion to signing Kaepernick a wash for every team and take a look from there at the reasons each NFL team should and should not sign Colin Kaepernick.

 

Teams sorted from lowest “Kaep Score” to highest, ties listed in alphabetical order.

 

Arizona Cardinals

QBs: Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert

Notes: If you wondered what happened to Kaepernick’s backup, he’s now third string for the Cardinals

Why Kaepernick:

They already have Gabbert, another reject of the second worst team in football last year couldn’t hurt, could it?

Why Not:

Solid veteran starter, mediocre experienced backup, mediocre experienced backup, yawn

Kaep Score: 0/10

 

Atlanta Falcons

QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

Why Kaepernick:

Both Ryan and Kaepernick blew a lead in a Super Bowl in dramatic fashion, and misery loves company

Why Not:

This team has two veteran QBs, one a top-10 QB in the league and another who could be starting on some NFL teams. They’re not interested in Kaep, let alone any QB

Kaep Score: 0/10

 

Chicago Bears

QBs: Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, Mark Sanchez

Notes: Signed Glennon from Tampa and promised him starting job, then drafted Trubisky who outplayed him in the preseason

Why Kaepernick:

If you want to make the Bear’s QB situation even more of a circus, this could be fun right? (Probably not)

Why Not:

Mark Sanchez is actually a really solid option to have as your third string. Trubisky seems solid and a good guy to have for the future, and Glennon looked fine during the Bears’ season opener. The Bears have too many “decent but not franchise” level QBs. They don’t need another one.

Kaep Score: 0/10

 

New England Patriots

QBs: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

Notes: Jacoby Brissett traded to Colts

Why Kaepernick:

Why Not:

Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. and Garappolo is as good at being a backup as he is good looking.

Kaep Score: 0/10

 

Oakland Raiders

QBs: Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook

Why Kaepernick:

I don’t think any fan base is less interested in anthem protests than Oakland’s. Marshawn Lynch is sitting and it doesn’t seem like anyone there cares. Also, still the Bay Area. (I have no football reasons why this would make sense)

Why Not:

Derek Carr has quickly emerged as a franchise quarterback and they have a backup in Manuel with starting experience. Too many (good) cooks in the kitchen.

Kaep Score: 0/10

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick

Why Kaepernick:

Well if you can tolerate having a guy strongly implicated in a rape case on your team surely there’s nobody with too much baggage.

Why Not:

The Bucs have a young, promising QB in Winston and a consummate veteran in Fitzpatrick behind him, who’s finally on a bench where he belongs. This is a pretty ideal setup for any team and not one you’d want to mess with if you’re the Bucs

Kaep Score: 0/10

 

Tennessee Titans

QBs: Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel

Why Kaepernick:

I’ve got nothing

Why Not:

A promising, young starting quarterback and a backup who’s proven himself reliable in that role over the course of his career. The only reason they’d add a QB is if Mariota got hurt.

Kaep score: 0/10

 

Kansas City Chiefs

QBs: Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray

Notes: Chiefs GM recently said Mahomes is “not even close” to as good as Smith. I’m sure that’s great for a 21-year-old’s confidence.

Why Kaepernick:

If they really are that concerned about a lack of depth behind Smith, an experienced QB like Kaepernick could help

Why Not:

Alex Smith played maybe his best game as a Chief on Thursday night in New England and there’s no way his starting status could be challenged. They already have their guy for the future in Mahomes, who even if he isn’t anywhere near ready they clearly believe in given that they traded up in the Draft to get him.

Kaep Score: 1/10

 

Los Angeles (man, that feels so wrong) Chargers

QBs: Philip Rivers, Cardale Jones, Kellen Clemens

Why Kaepernick:

Cardale and Kellen are just … fine.

Why Not:

A long established starter and 2 backups who won’t immediately lead to your team imploding if they have to play.

Kaep Score: 1/10.

 

New Orleans Saints

QBs: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill

Why Kaepernick:

Drew Brees is aging and you don’t want to be left with Chase Daniel if he gets hurt at some point during the season.

Why Not:

An offense that fits Drew Brees and one that fits Colin Kaepernick don’t look at all alike. While Daniels isn’t gonna set the world on fire the Saints trust him and Brees still looks healthy as ever. And again, any team that has 3 QBs on its roster is sending a clear message they aren’t interested

Kaep Score: 1/10

 

Philadelphia Eagles

QBs: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles

Why Kaepernick:

I’m open to suggestions here. I could talk about how Foles isn’t that good, but he’s well above average as far as backups go

Why Not:

Wentz is going to be given every opportunity to succeed and has a reliable veteran backup in Foles. Kaepernick wouldn’t sign up to be a third string QB.

Kaep Score: 1/10

 

Washington Redskins (while we’re talking about NFL social issues, how is this still a thing?)

QBs: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy

Why Kaepernick:

For whatever reason, the Redskins don’t want to pay up and give Cousins a long term deal. Maybe it’s because they honestly don’t think he’s worth it and are fine with franchise tagging him or maybe it’s just because Dan Snyder sucks (which he does). If it’s the former, Kaepernick would be way cheaper, although probably a down-grade.

Why Not:

Eventually, Cousins and the ‘Skins will get this figured out and he’ll be there a while. Colt McCoy is a more than capable backup. Also, I can’t imagine Kaepernick wants to play for this team simply based on it’s name. Not gonna happen.

Kaep Score: 1/10

 

Cincinnati Bengals

QBs: Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron

Why Kaepernick:

Andy Dalton hasn’t quite been able to take the Bengals to the next level, so there may be an opening. Also, considering the number of ex-cons the Bengals have employed in recent years I can’t imagine anybody’s history would be too big of a “distraction” for this team

Why Not:

AJ McCarron is one of the best backups in the league, having played well when called upon. Neither him nor Dalton are world beaters but there just isn’t room, and Kaepernick wouldn’t be interested in a team where he’s not at least a guaranteed second string

Kaep Score: 2/10

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs

Notes: Big Ben thought about retiring, didn’t

Why Kaepernick:

Kaepernick is a better QB than Landry Jones, and Ben Roethlisberger is a constant injury risk. Kaepernick could bring some insurance

Why Not:

The Steelers clearly have a plan in the short term: Big Ben is the guy, Jones is a reliable, longtime backup, Josh Dobbs is a guy with potential for the future. Barring injury they’ve got QB covered.

Kaep Score: 2/10

 

Buffalo Bills

QBs: Tyrod Taylor, TJ Yates, Nathan Peterman, Joe Webb

Notes: Taylor and Yates both in concussion protocol, just returned to practice Monday, both questionable for Week 1

Why Kaepernick:

Tyrod Taylor has had some injury concerns (although he played and looked fine Week 1) and also has a shaky relationship with the team after they sat him in the last game of the season so that his salary for this season wasn’t guaranteed. Signing Kaepernick could give them insurance for the future

Why Not:

Taylor was phenomenal last year when he was healthy and if he stays in Buffalo the starting job is his. While you can certainly argue that Kaep is a better QB than TJ Yates, Yates has plenty of experience and is a more than reliable backup.

Kaep Score: 3/10

 

Carolina Panthers

QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya

Notes: Cam Newton has barely played in the preseason, largely for self preservation.

Why Kaepernick:

If you’re looking for a starter who uses his mobility as much as Kaepernick, it’s Cam Newton. Furthermore, Newton’s had some problems staying on the field. While Newton is a better pocket passer than he’s often given credit for, Derek Anderson being in the game makes the Panthers offense very different. Kaepernick would reduce this discontinuity.

Why Not:

While he’s certainly a different style of QB, Anderson is a bona-fide backup if there ever was one. With lots of starting experience including with the Panthers, he’s earned the trust of Ron Rivera. There’s no competition for the backup job in Carolina. Even though it may seem like a good fit, neither side would be particularly interested.

Kaep Score: 3/10

 

Minnesota Vikings

QBs: Sam Bradford, Case Keenum

Notes: Teddy Bridgewater is starting the year on the PUP list, meaning he’s out until at least Week 7. Bridgewater is lucky his knee injury over a year ago didn’t end his career, but it’s sad seeing a guy with a lot of talent be stuck on the sidelines indefinitely.

Why Kaepernick:

Signing another QB is dependent on how you feel about Keenum. Kaepernick is better, but is he better enough that you’d willingly ditch the guy currently the backup?

Why Not:

As backups go there’s nothing wrong with Keenum. Also, the Vikings are going to have a bit of a problem when Bridgewater is eventually healthy and only one of him and Bradford can play. Adding another QB would only make this worse.

Kaep Score: 3/10

 

San Francisco 49ers

QBs: Brian Hoyer, CJ Beathard

Notes: The Niners let both Kaepernick and Gabbert walk and replaced them with Jay Cutler’s backup and a QB they drafted from Iowa. Whatever you say, John Lynch.

Why Kaepernick:

He’s better than any QB they have on their roster, it’s the only team he’s ever played for, and in general they seemed understanding of the protests.

Why Not:

Kyle Shanahan cleaned house offensively when he got the job, letting both Kaepernick and Gabbert walk and brought in Brian Hoyer who he’s worked with before, though he’s not an obvious upgrade. The ‘Niners are going to be awful this year and conventional wisdom is that they will take advantage of the strong 2018 QB class to draft someone Shanahan thinks will fit his system well. Also, they’ve made their break with Kaepernick, bringing him back in would just be weird.

Kaep Score: 3/10

 

Miami Dolphins

QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore

Notes: Starting QB Ryan Tannehill is out for the season, Cutler signed as replacement.

Why Kaepernick:

Kaepernick has basically been waiting for a starting QB to get hurt, and on the face of it the Tannehill injury presented a good opportunity. The Dolphins have playoff aspirations this season and someone with Kaep’s experience could be valuable in preventing this season from being wasted. Jay Cutler is also past his prime and significantly more expensive than Kaepernick

Why Not:

Matt Moore is a more than capable backup, which he showed last season. That made it even weirder when Adam Gase pulled Jay Cutler out of retirement hoping to conjure the same magic they had together in 2015. So at this point, you’ve got two QBs with potential to start games and that’s not a situation that would make sense for Kaepernick. Finally, while I want to keep this to football as much as possible, Kaep having worn a shirt that praised Fidel Castro does not play well in Miami.

Kaep Score: a 7 pre-Cutler, a 1 post; average: 4

 

Cleveland Browns

QBs: DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum

Notes: Recently cut Brock Osweiler after trading for him from Houston

Why Kaepernick:

The Browns have no proven QBs on their roster. Kizer is a rookie, Kessler played ok at times but has never looked like a guy who could turn the team around. Hogan is not a guy built to be an NFL starter. Kaepernick has a resume to immediately compete for the starting job.

Also, the Browns are certainly a team that wouldn’t have a locker room problem with Kaepernick given how many of their players have joined in the anthem protests.

Why Not:

The Browns are in rebuild mode. Sure, their QB’s aren’t proven but that’s true of most of the team. Also, Kaepernick isn’t going to want to be the 5th QB on a roster and the Browns wouldn’t be interested in paying another couple million dollars to a quarterback, especially considering how much they’re paying Osweiler to not play for them.

Kaep Score: 5/10

 

New York Giants

QBs: Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb

Why Kaepernick:

Like a lot of backups, Geno Smith is nothing special and Kaepernick would without question be an upgrade. Eli is getting old, the Giants are built to win now, and a good insurance policy never hurts.

Why Not:

Kaepernick has no shot at starting here and Geno Smith isn’t bad enough that being the backup would be a free pass. They also already have 3 QBs on the roster, which says they’re good with what they’ve got.

Kaep Score: 5/10

 

Houston Texans

QBs: Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson

Why Kaepernick:

At the time of writing, Tom Savage has not made it through the first half the Texans’ opening game. This likely ends his time as the starter in Houston. If you have rookie starter, you want better (or at least more) coverage behind him than Tom Savage.

Why Not:

You’ve just drafted a talented rookie QB and you don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on him by bringing in a new guy who will be constantly looking over his shoulder. The Texans also may have additional PR concerns with all the good press JJ Watt is currently getting. They may not want to risk messing with that.

Kaep Score: 6/10

 

Denver Broncos

QBs: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler

Notes: Paxton Lynch is out for at least five weeks with a shoulder injury, Osweiler signed as backup

Why Kaepernick:

John Elway claimed that signing Osweiler made sense because he knows the system. The problem with that is the coaching staff has changed and they do not run the same offensive scheme anymore that Osweiler ran when he played in Denver. If you compare Kaepernick and Osweiler’s stats from last season it’s not close whose football has been better recently

Why Not:

Trevor Siemian is the Broncos starter, which was viewed as more or less a coin flip between him and Lynch. So they have a starter and a backup in Osweiler who, whether he’s familiar or not with the offense, the fans and front office both believe in. The Broncos aren’t in a great spot either way, and they’re sticking to what they know.

Kaep Score: 7/10

 

Detroit Lions

QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock

Notes: Lions just paid Stafford a YUGE amount of money

Why Kaepernick:

A theme for many teams on this list is a lack of insurance. You would think with all that money investedin Stafford they’d want him to have some decent backup; Rudock does not meet the criteria. I’m surprised they haven’t signed any other QB, let alone Kaepernick. Certainly Stafford is the starter no matter what, but this is a vacancy the Lions should be filling.

Why Not:

The pass-heavy style of the Lions doesn’t really fit Kaepernick.

Kaep Score: 7/10

 

Green Bay Packers

QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley

Notes: This interview Aaron Rodgers did with ESPN The Magazine is worth your time

Why Kaepernick:

See the reasons for Detroit.

Why Not:

See above.

Kaep Score: 7/10

 

Los Angeles Rams

QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen

Notes: Goff has played 7 games in the NFL, Mannion has 50 passing yards in 2 seasons, Allen was deemed not good enough by the Jaguars. Yikes.

Why Kaepernick:

Whatever you think of Goff and how the Rams have (poorly) managed him, he has absolutely no backup. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a guy you didn’t trust to play until Week 10 last season. Also, if there’s a town where the fans will be ok with the anthem protest thing, it’s LA

Why Not:

Given Goff being so young (and their coach being 31) the attention that Kaepernick would bring might be a lot to deal with for someone in Goff’s position; it’s just not the ideal environment for a guy like him to develop (vs a guy like Dak Prescott who already has the full confidence of the team and has more than locked down his status as an NFL starter)

Kaep Score: 7/10

 

Dallas Cowboys

QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore*

Notes: The Cowboys had cut Moore but at time of writing it is being reported they’re resigning him.

Why Kaepernick:

Dak Prescott is clearly the Cowboys QB of present and future and looks to have a long career ahead of him in Dallas. That said, with Tony Romo joining CBS as a free agent, Prescott has no cover and the Cowboys should really do more to protect and insure Prescott. The Cowboys are nowhere close to the same team if Rush or Moore has to play. Also, given that they have had several players in recent year suspended because of all sorts of bad off the field stuff you think they wouldn’t fear a PR hit (spoiler: logic does not prevail in the NFL)

Why Not:

Maybe Kaepernick wouldn’t like the idea of having no chance at starting, but I think being a backup would be balanced out by being on a good team. Also, while we’re assuming that every team has a similar PR aversion to Kaep, Jerry Jones is particularly anti-protest having required (strongly told really, he couldn’t stop them if they really wanted to) Cowboys players to stand during the anthem. But hey, beating a woman and throwing her on a pile of guns is totally acceptable *insert Kermit the Frog sipping tea meme here*.

Kaep Score: 8/10 (although if you build in non-football factors this drops like wide open game winning TD pass from Mike Glennon to Jordan Howard)

 

New York Jets

QBs: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg

Notes: McCown signed as free agent after they decided not to resign Ryan Fitzpatrick

Why Kaepernick:

Josh McCown is washed up at this point and probably tired of being the only fireman called to humongous burning buildings (Bears, Browns, Jets, etc.). Bryce Petty still hasn’t figured out how to work an offense that doesn’t throw the ball 70 times a game and Christian Hackenberg doesn’t know how to break a huddle.

Why Not:

The Jets are tanking, which should be obvious to even the most casual fan. They gave up on the Geno Smith project and let Ryan Fitzpatrick go to the Bucs, where he will be sitting on the bench and not at risk of throwing six interceptions in a single game. While Kaepernick may not want to be playing on such a terrible team and one with 3 QBs already on it, he would almost certainly start.

Kaep Score: 8/10

 

Baltimore Ravens

QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett

Notes: Flacco missed the entire preseason due to injury and just practiced for the first time last week before starting Week 1

Why Kaepernick:

Joe Flacco has had a nagging back problem for weeks after he injured himself while weightlifting. Meanwhile, Ryan Mallett has not looked good in the preseason playing in his place. The Ravens could find themselves in need of a quarterback at a moment’s notice

Why Not:

The Ravens acknowledged they were thinking about signing Kaep, asking their fans to “pray for [them]” as they considered the option, becoming the first team to finally acknowledge that signing Kaepernick isn’t a decision about football. It only makes sense not to sign him if Joe Flacco is much healthier than we’ve been led to believe he is

Kaep Score: 9/10

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

QBs: Blake Bortles, Chad Henne

Notes: Lol (side note: Bortles is no longer a team captain)

Why Kaepernick:

This team doesn’t have a starting quarterback; they have two backup quarterbacks and by default have to play one of them. The Jaguars defense is solid, they have Leonard Fournette in their backfield. If only they had a competent quarterback.

Why Not:

Tom Coughlin has said Jags are “not interested” in Kaepernick. Either they don’t know what they’re doing or they’re fine with wasting the talent they’ve waited years to have.

Kaep Score: 10/10

 

Seattle Seahawks

QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis

Notes: The Seahawks thought about signing Kaepernick but signed a mostly journeyman backup in Davis, who’s started a combined 10 games for the Rams and Browns

Why Kaepernick:

This would have made a ton of sense before they decided to bring in Davis, and honestly it still makes a lot of sense. Kaepernick would be a good fit as a backup for Wilson and an upgrade over Davis. The Seahawks also have Michael Bennett who has recently revealed his personal experience with the very issue of discrimination, so signing Kaepernick would have united the two foremost figures in the anthem protests.

Why Not:

This is the only team where I don’t have an against argument beyond the standard “bad PR”

Kaep Score: 10/10

 

Indianapolis Colts

QBs: Andrew Luck*, Scott Tolzien, Jacoby Brissett

Notes: Andrew Luck still has not practiced since having shoulder surgery in January and is out until who knows when (personal prediction: he’s out for the year). They traded WR Phillip Dorsett to New England for Brissett

Why Kaepernick:

When it became apparent Andrew Luck would be out a while, naturally the Colts went looking for another quarterback. Kaepernick would not have required them to give up any players and would have been likely able to start within a couple weeks given that his competition would have been Tolzien. Instead, they gave up a starting receiver in Phillip Dorsett to trade for Patriots third-stringer Jacoby Brissett who it doesn’t look like they intend to start. This is a strategy for a team with a starting QB only out a couple weeks, not a guy who hasn’t thrown a ball in months.

Why Not:

Maybe they know something we all don’t about Luck’s health and they really feel good about Tolzien. Tolzien’s biggest advantage is that he already knows the playbook.

Kaep Score: 9/10

***UPDATE: Scott Tolzien has thrown 2 pick-sixes and the Colts lost by 37 to the Rams***

Kaep Score: 11/10

 

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