As you’ve likely been made aware over the last week, Colin Kaepernick is unemployed.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback had shown signs that he can still play in the NFL last season – albeit likely as a backup rather than a starter – but for various reasons, he hasn’t found a suitor in free agency.
Reportedly, some teams have stayed away from Kaepernick due to his political stances and the feared backlash that may come from fans if he’s signed, while others are unsure of his viability as an NFL passer.
While the truth may be difficult, if not impossible, to decipher, one thing that’s for certain is Kaepernick’s skill set and personality only works for a handful of teams, and those teams require a need somewhere on their quarterback depth chart to be interested in the 29-year-old.
To be effective, Kaepernick needs to play in a system that fits a mobile quarterback, giving the 2011 second-round pick a chance to use his athleticism. As Kaepernick won’t be offered any starting jobs, it would illogical for a team to prepare a package of plays specifically for its backup that don’t work for the first-team offense – so pretty much any pocket-passing teams are out of the mix.
Director Spike Lee implied over the weekend that the New York Jets should sign Kaepernick to start, but if new offensive coordinator John Morton plans to run an offense remotely similar to the one he just left with the New Orleans Saints, Kaepernick is not a fit. Plus, they just signed Josh McCown.
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The Cleveland Browns were into Kaepernick last year and have a good system fit for the mobile passer, but as ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio pointed out Sunday, over-controlling owner Jimmy Haslam’s political values heavily contrast those of Kaepernick’s.
General manager John Lynch admitted last week that a return to the 49ers is a possibility, though the likelihood is diminishing. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense works better with a quarterback who can move, but with two veterans already signed and a good chance a rookie is added in the draft, there may not be room for Kaepernick on the roster.
While a move to the Jets, Browns, and 49ers doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Kaepernick, there are a handful of teams that could find a good match with the six-year pro.
Tyrod Taylor had a breakout season in 2015 using the same Greg Roman-coached offense as Kaepernick did in his best seasons.
While Roman has moved on and Rick Dennison has taken over as offensive coordinator under new head coach Sean McDermott, Kaepernick and Taylor share a similar skill set. Kaepernick could be a poor man’s version of Taylor if an injury forced the starter out of the game.
A downfall to potentially signing Kaepernick would be that Bills fans really don’t seem to like him.
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Given the formerly fierce rivalry between the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, it would be odd to see Kaepernick in enemy gear, but it makes sense.
The Seahawks are one of the few teams who still use the quarterback-option run on a regular basis and don’t require a field general who throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns every game. While Kaepernick’s accuracy is far behind Russell Wilson’s, they are two of the NFL’s more mobile quarterbacks.
Personality wise, the Seahawks may be the best fit for Kaepernick as the group followed in his footsteps with a team-wide demonstration to support social injustices last season. Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman are two of the most outspoken NFLers around when it comes to social issues and they are supported by their organization, which would do the same for Kaepernick.
Another one of the few teams who still encourages its quarterbacks to run, Kaepernick might make a decent backup to Cam Newton.
The Panthers have been looking to cut down on Newton’s hits and designed runs, though it’as been a steady part of their offense. As current backup Derek Anderson proved, the offense is limited without Newton last season, Kaepernick could be the spot-duty replacement that allows Carolina to continue their run-heavy style without putting their star in harms way every down.
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The Baltimore Ravens do not run a style of offense ideal for Kaepernick, but they do employ someone who could install it.
The aforementioned Roman works as a senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach in Baltimore, and could provide the rare exception to the “don’t change your offense for the sake of a backup” rule.
If Roman could work with Kaepernick and the Ravens offense to install a 15-play package, the quarterback could be used to provide a change-of-pace offense very different threat than the one posed by Joe Flacco. It would be an unconventional way to use Kaepernick, but so much about the quarterback’s career has been unconventional, it just might work.
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