Players have been signing contracts at a lightning-fast pace around the NFL for the last three days, with almost all of the top players already signed just 72 hours after free agency started. But there’s no news about one of the most talked-about players during the 2016 season: Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, the quarterback who once led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and more recently began a national controversy when he declined to stand for the national anthem, has yet to be publicly linked to any team. It’s possible that some team has quietly reached out to Kaepernick or his representatives, but if so it’s been very quiet, with no leaks to the media.
Does that mean no teams are interested in Kaepernick at all? It’s possible, both for on-field and off-field reasons. There are probably some NFL owners and personnel people who are turned off by Kaepernick’s anthem stance, even though he now says he’ll stand for the anthem. But dozens of NFL players followed Kaepernick’s lead and kneeled for the anthem last year, and there were no reports of repercussions against any of them. NFL teams are willing to employ players who don’t stand for the anthem, so that can’t be the only reason for the lack of interest in Kaepernick.
On-field problems are probably the bigger problem. Although Kaepernick’s raw passing stats (16 touchdowns and four interceptions last season) don’t look bad, the reality is he played poorly and compiled his numbers mostly while trailing in the second half for the 2-14 49ers. More advanced statistics used by Football Outsiders and ESPN both rank Kaepernick 30th among NFL passers last season.
Still, Kaepernick has had some success in the NFL, and it seems likely that some team will eventually offer him a contract. The Broncos reportedly had some interest in Kaepernick last year. The Jets, Browns and Texans are all in the market for a quarterback. All it takes is one team to offer Kaepernick a contract.
But the mere fact that we’re just wondering about one team offering Kaepernick a contract speaks to how far he’s fallen. Five years ago, he was the toast of the NFL, having led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Four years ago, some saw him as having the potential to be one of the all-time greats. And now we’re just wondering if he’ll be able to compete at training camp for the Jets or the Browns.