The NFL has publicly supported the movement against the systemic oppression of black people in the United States. Now, they can put their money where their mouth is and sign Colin Kaepernick, the man who dragged the issue to the front of the league in 2016. Kaepernick hasn’t played a single snap of professional football since the end of the 2016 season, but his track record as a starting quarterback should help him get back into the league. Here are three teams that would be great landing spots for Kaepernick as he eases back into the life of a professional quarterback.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Robert Griffin III seems like the long-term backup to Lamar Jackson, but the Ravens should bring in some competition for the job. Kaepernick has been an effective NFL quarterback more recently than Griffin, too. In 2016, the last time Kaepernick played in the NFL, he averaged 7.2 adjusted yards per attempt, which ranked 16th in the NFL. Griffin only has one season where he surpassed that number — his rookie season in 2012 with the Redskins. Kaepernick also has familiarity with Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who was his offensive coordinator with the 49ers from 2012-2014. Kaepernick has had some of his best moments under Roman, so the reunion could make sense and it would potentially give the Ravens a superb backup to Jackson if he gets injured. Kaepernick isn’t as dynamic as Jackson, but he would allow the Ravens to run the same type of offense.
The supporting cast is also in a great spot for Kaepernick to play well if he takes regular-season snaps. Baltimore has one of the best tackle duos in the league in Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown. Baltimore has a dynamic tight end in Mark Andrews, along with two talented running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, and a speed demon at receiver with Marquise Brown. It's hard to imagine too many better landing spots for Kaepernick than Baltimore.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City would also be a dynamic fit for Kaepernick. Right now, the Chiefs have Chad Henne as their backup quarterback. Henne hasn’t thrown more than 100 passes in a season since 2013, so it’s not like he has a real edge over Kaepernick in terms of recent playing time. Henne has thrown just five passes since the 2016 season. Right now, the best situation for Kaepernick is likely one where he can sit without the pressure of being thrust into a starting role. It’s safe to say that, barring injury, no one will be starting over Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City for a long time.
Like Baltimore, Kansas City would be a perfect marriage of coaching and supporting talent for Kaepernick. (The same is true for any quarterback in the league.) Head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy are wizards on offense and the Chiefs have an unbelievably talented group of skill players to help put points on the board. Kaepernick has already had success throwing to a talented tight end in Vernon Davis. In this scenario, he’d have the gift of throwing to Travis Kelce, arguably the best tight end in the NFL. Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Sammy Watkins are speedy receivers who would fit well with Kaepernick’s rocket launcher for a right arm.
Kaepernick may not be as good as he was at his peak, but “better than Chad Henne” is a low bar, and he’d clear it easily. According to Spotrac, the Chiefs only have a little more than three million dollars left in cap space and they still have to sign their rookie class. That may be a bigger hurdle than the lack of backup quarterback talent, but the front office would find a way to get Kaepernick on the team.
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3. New England Patriots
The Patriots don’t have a quality quarterback on their roster right now. They should be looking at all avenues to upgrade their quarterback position, including signing Kaepernick. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer appear to be the Patriots’ plan at quarterback for the 2020 season. If anyone can pull a winning season out of Stidham or Hoyer as the starter, it’s Bill Belichick. But that doesn’t mean he has to.
Kaepernick has proven far more at the NFL level than either Stidham or Hoyer, even if he hasn’t played in four seasons. At his peak, which may be unlikely for Kaepernick to reach at this point, Kaepernick appeared to be a franchise quarterback. That’s worth taking a risk on. New England’s supporting cast isn’t very impressive outside of their offensive line. Their receiver, running back, and tight end talent are all subpar. It wouldn’t be a perfect spot for Kaepernick to slide into.
Still, the Patriots appear to have such a need at quarterback that signing Kaepernick just makes too much sense. Even if he’s a shell of what he once was, that’s good enough to make a push for the Patriots’ starting quarterback job. This would undoubtedly be the most pressure Kaepernick could face. He’d be stepping into Tom Brady’s former role after being away from professional football for three straight seasons. Those are big shoes to fill while under relentless scrutiny from national media, but from a pure football perspective, it makes too much sense.
Like the Chiefs, New England doesn’t have much room to make a move for Kaepernick. According to Spotrac, the Patriots have about $1.9 million in cap space and need to sign their rookie class. Unless Kaepernick is willing to play for the veteran minimum, New England would need to clear out cap space to bring him in.