Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job. After having something of a resurgent season with one of the league’s worst teams, Kaepernick remains unemployed. He also happens to play a position where supply is wildly outpaced by demand. The off-season is far from over, but as other players — including those with much worse resumes — begin to land on teams with presumed starting roles, it becomes a hotter and hotter topic: Colin Kaepernick is without a home.
Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas was the latest to weigh in, recognizing that Colin Kaepernick’s lack of a job isn’t simply going to be about one thing. Is it his current status as a player more or less than it is his decision to kneel during the national anthem last season? When it comes to Kaep, he’s never going to be viewed as just a football player ever again; he’s someone who is willing to be an activist and speak out on his beliefs.
Regardless of how you feel about that — we all know that everyone had a chance to weigh in on the matter in the previous NFL season — it’s going to be divisive with any NFL fan base. As a result, any team that thinks they could use Kaepernick’s services under center must also weigh that with the amount of noise that will come from some percentage of their customers who do not want him on their favorite team. Even that’s not all that plays into Kaepernick and his current situation.
Mike Florio discussed the Kaepernick situation with Joe Thomas’ comments on Twitter as the catalyst, discussing the Browns specifically. That’s as good a place as any for us to discuss this scenario. Here’s what Florio wrote about the Browns:
Which brings me back to the Browns. A year ago, they wanted him (Kaepernick). Now, after a season with a two-win team in an offense new to him while recovering from three surgeries with numbers that compare to those generated by Tyrod Taylor (a guy in whom the Browns reportedly were interested), the Browns want nothing to do with Kaepernick.
There are two possible explanations for this. One, the Browns are being the Browns, again. Two, Browns ownership wants nothing to do with Kaepernick.
Given that the Browns wanted Kaepernick a year ago, and in light of how he performed a year ago, Door No. 2 is a fair response.
First of all, Florio might be absolutely correct that Browns ownership wants nothing to do with Kaepernick. While Kaepernick’s brand of distraction is nothing like other distractions the Browns have faced since Jimmy Haslam bought the team, it’s still in the category of non-football “stuff.” I’m not going to try to sell you a false equivalency between Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon, and Colin Kaepernick, but I’d be lying if I thought the Browns didn’t somehow consider them all with a super-wide definition of “distraction.”
The Browns were reportedly interested in Kaepernick, as were other teams a year ago when the 49ers were trying to trade him. Kaepernick never got traded, and the Browns tried the Robert Griffin III reclamation project. That also occurred in a year where the Browns eventually traded down away from Carson Wentz and accumulated an extra first round pick. One of the main differences between last year and this year is that No. 12 pick which the Browns might be able to use on a quarterback. This is also not to mention the first overall pick that the team could use — however unlikely — on a quarterback.
NFL front offices around the league are notorious for having “beer goggles” heading into the draft. They’ve convinced themselves that every player they select is going to be the next Russell Wilson, if not Tom Brady. When the Browns have as many picks as they do, who here will suggest that the Browns front office doesn’t think that they can do a hell of a lot better than Colin Kaepernick with one of their draft selections? You know they think they’re about to spin gold. It’s only when you wake up with a 1-15 record authored by the concussion-filled brains of Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, and RG3 before you realize what you have or haven’t done with all those “assets.”
Part of this is on Kaepernick’s shoulders as well, and I’m not talking about his political activism. Even beyond that, he’s a guy who presumably wants to start. He’s given up a significant amount of money in order to hit the market when he made the decision to opt out of his deal. Even if he and the Browns had mutual interest, at this point in the off-season do you think the Browns would guarantee him a starter’s job and legit starter’s money? I don’t.
They’re already paying Brock Osweiler for the benefit of the Texans’ second-round pick in 2018. Part of having loads of cap space is using it to its most efficient impact. Depending on what happens with Osweiler, the Browns could be looking at well over $20 million in quarterback spending in 2017 with very little idea whether or not they, you know, have a quarterback. And while Kaepernick would be the best quarterback on the roster tomorrow if the Browns signed him, that’s not saying a whole hell of a lot.
At this point, there’s no choice but to let the Colin Kaepernick situation play out. It might take until after the draft and Kaepernick might have to agree to join a team where he’s competing for a gig with a rookie incumbent. If he doesn’t get signed, then we’ll have to figure out how to deal with that reality at that time. I’m not prepared to go all the way down that road today, except to say that it would be hard to figure out how it could happen that a quarterback-driven league could leave Colin Kaepernick out entirely. For the moment, you can blame timing and roster dynamics ahead of the draft. If the season proceeds without him fully, that’s a whole other conversation.