Colin Kaepernick hasn’t taken an NFL field since 2016, but the former 49ers quarterback-turned-civil rights activist is eyeing a comeback in 2022. Not only that, but a handful of teams have reportedly contacted the 34-year-old, and now Kaepernick is set to throw in front of NFL scouts at halftime of Michigan’s spring game.
If history is any indication, the apparent interest in Kaepernick doesn’t mean the QB is actually a safe bet to return. Since his exit from San Francisco in 2017, when he generated national controversy due to on-field protests of police brutality, the former Super Bowl starter hasn’t appeared close to signing with a new team. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell openly encouraged clubs to sign the QB prior to the 2020 season, but only after years of conflict between Kaepernick and the league, including a botched NFL-organized workout for the QB to audition for interested teams.
And that’s not even accounting for Kaepernick the player, who starred as a dual threat early in his career but largely came off the bench in his final seasons. If he were to return, it would almost assuredly be as competition for a No. 2 or No. 3 job.
With that said, here’s a look at eight teams that might consider adding Kaepernick this offseason:
Would Aaron Rodgers be OK with it? We’d guess so, considering his new $150 million contract ensures he can’t be threatened under center. Kaepernick would offer more experience than Jordan Love as the backup, and coach Matt LaFleur, who is fond of the ground game, could get creative to deploy the QB in special packages.
Crazy as a reunion sounds, Kaepernick’s mobility doesn’t make him a bad option as potential Trey Lance insurance, especially considering he’d probably be around $25 million cheaper than injury-prone incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo. Can you imagine the surprise resurgence of No. 7 jerseys in the Bay Area? Wilder things have happened this offseason, no?
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They need QBs, plain and simple. Their grand plan probably lies with this year’s rookie QB class, but after taking a flyer on a Cam Newton reunion in 2021, why couldn’t they roll the dice with another aging dual threat?
Their aversion to robbing young Jalen Hurts of the spotlight (especially after the abrupt falling-out with Carson Wentz) will probably keep them out of the mix, but stylistically, the fit is there. Kaepernick is closer aligned to Hurts’ skill set than current No. 2 Gardner Minshew strictly because of his legs, and if the Eagles are really gonna lean into this run-heavy approach, why wouldn’t they be interested in a situational reserve? Special teams coordinator Michael Clay was also on staff with the 49ers during his time there.
One of the teams who attended his 2019 workout for NFL scouts, they’ve got Logan Woodside as Ryan Tannehill’s backup. They could easily add competition there, and Kaepernick’s legs would bode well for their run-heavy attack.
They were reportedly interested in the past, but more importantly, Lamar Jackson has just Tyler Huntley behind him on the depth chart, and he’s coming off an injury-riddled 2021. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who leans on lots of QB runs, was Kaepernick’s OC for four different seasons in San Francisco.
They’ve easily been the most heavily — and tangibly — linked to Kaepernick since his last playing days. On one hand, that suggests they’re all talk, no action when it comes to potentially adding him. On the other, there’s never been a better time for them to take a flyer and give him a shot to run their run-first offense. With Russell Wilson gone, only Drew Lock is a conceivable starter here.
Why the heck not? If any team is open to adding weapons of all kinds, it’s them. Andy Reid isn’t shy about offering opportunities for comeback stories, Patrick Mahomes would likely embrace the chance to work alongside him, and Chad Henne could still stick as the more conventional pocket-passing backup. Receiver Daurice Fountain was recently spotted running routes for Kaepernick, and it’s not hard to envision Eric Bieniemy using the QB in some of Kansas City’s trick-play formations.