The NFL has invited Colin Kaepernick to work out, and invited all 32 NFL team to watch the workout, attempting to help midwife an end to Kaepernick’s absence from the league. But the middle of the season is an odd and less than ideal time for teams and Kaepernick to be engaged in mutual courtship.
Keep in mind, Kaepernick is now 32 and hasn’t played since 2016, and in his last full season, he lost his job as starting quarterback to Blane Gabbert twice. (Since that season, Gabbert has gone on to be the third-string quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and a benched backup for the Tennessee Titans; he is currently on injured reserve the backup-quarterback job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.) A few NFL quarterbacks can play well into their thirties — Tom Brady is 41 — but it is likely that Kaepernick’s best years are behind him. While Kaepernick’s probably in still prime physical health (and he certainly hasn’t had much wear and tear in recent years!) it’s fair to wonder if any NFL team will choose to build around him instead of a highly drafted rookie next year.
Victor Mather of the New York Times speculates that teams that could have a use for Kaepernick include the Detroit Lions, the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, the Miami Dolphins, the Carolina Panthers, and the Cincinnati Bengals. (If you really hate Kaepernick, you may want to see him playing in Cincinnati.)
Most of these imagined pairings make little sense, unless Kaepernick is satisfied sitting on the bench as a backup. (Keep in mind, teams can find plenty of inexpensive quarterbacks who are capable of standing on the sideline and holding a clipboard who don’t bring any controversy with them.)
At this point in the NFL season, teams are either competing for a playoff spot or they’re just seeing whom they’ve got who are worthwhile parts of the roster for next season. For a team like the Washington Redskins, Kaepernick may give them a better shot at winning games, but their primary objective for the rest of the season is to see if Dwayne Haskins is the guy they hoped he would be when they picked him this spring.
For the Lions, it all depends upon whether Matthew Stafford’s back injury is serious or minor, but either way, they’re not likely to give up on Stafford for the long-term. Stafford is 31, but played very well until his recent injury, is the face of the franchise, and is under contract until 2022.
No, the Jets aren’t giving up on Sam Darnold. In Chicago, Mitch Trubisky went through a really rough patch until last week, but they probably don’t want to give up on him completely halfway through his third season. Besides the obvious reasons the Miami Dolphins wouldn’t be eager to sign an outspoken fan of Fidel Castro, they’re likely to want to find their next quarterback in next spring’s draft, which goes for the Bengals as well. In Carolina, Kyle Allen is playing lights out and appears to be the heir apparent to Cam Newton.
Maybe the Indianapolis Colts make the most sense, as they’re still in the playoff hunt but are now starting third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer, who’s playing for his eighth different team this decade. But like Miami and Cincinnati, the Colts’ long-term plans probably include picking a quarterback in next year’s draft and building around the rookie.
In other words, it’s possible that no team comes away from Kaepernick’s workout convinced that signing him makes sense for their roster in the long term, based entirely upon the team’s needs at quarterback. Unfortunately, if that scenario comes to pass, a lot of Kaepernick’s fans will insist that it reflects a continued effort by NFL owners to punish him for his outspoken political beliefs.