Setting aside all the sociopolitical factors, there are numerous football reasons why the New England Patriots should consider Colin Kaepernick an option.
Whatever your stance is on athletes standing, kneeling, or abstaining altogether from participating in the national anthem tradition, it’s impossible to deny that Colin Kaepernick remains at least an intriguing prospect of a football player.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback hasn’t played a meaningful NFL game since New Year’s Day of 2017, but he’s still just 32 years old. He’s reportedly maintained a rigid workout schedule the past two-plus years, and he insists he’s still NFL-ready and just waiting for a call from an interested team.
Kaepernick has a career passer rating of 88.9, a career completion percentage of 59.8%, and he’s responsible for 85 total touchdowns against 30 interceptions. He’s thrown for over 13,500 yards and rushed for over 2,800 yards in his NFL career. He’s also made 64 starts as an NFL quarterback, six of which happened in the postseason – two in the NFC Championship Game and one in the Super Bowl.
In short, Kaepernick has more experience both in the regular season and in the playoffs than the vast majority of quarterbacks on active rosters around the league right now… and yet he remains unemployed.
Obviously his status as an outspoken political activist has made him a polarizing figure in this bitterly-divided country, and it’s probably for that reason alone that he’s had such a difficult time finding work since he was became a free agent in 2017. His play certainly dipped a bit during the 2015 and 2016 seasons compared to his time as a stater between 2012-2014, but you’d be hard-pressed to make an argument that he’s not at the very least more talented than virtually every backup on a current NFL roster.
To that end, the New England Patriots owe it to themselves to send representatives to Kaepernick’s private workout this weekend. The NFL reportedly sent out a memo on Tuesday to all 32 teams notifying them that it planned to stage a workout and interview in Atlanta this Saturday with Kaepernick, according to Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells.
Because of the relative short notice for the workout – Kaepernick’s team seemed to suggest the timing of the exhibition even came as a surprise to them – it’s unknown just how many clubs plan to be in attendance. Typically these types of workouts occur on Tuesdays as opposed to Saturdays, but the NFL reportedly wouldn’t budge on the scheduling.
New England has several good reasons to at least attend the session and see what happens. After all, there’s no contractual obligation to sign Kaepernick then and there if the Patriots like what they see, and the club presumably isn’t going to get significant blowback from fans just for being there in Atlanta this weekend, one would think.
First of all, the Patriots’ backup quarterback situation is a bit… tenuous, shall we say.
Jarrett Stidham looked terrific during the preseason, but he has been a nightmare in limited regular season appearances. Journeyman Cody Kessler was added to the roster as extra insurance behind Tom Brady given Stidham’s disastrous outing against the Jets in Week 3, then promptly got released before later getting re-signed once again. Kessler has starting quarterback experience in the NFL, but it’s nowhere near Kaepernick’s level – he has 12 starts to Kaepernick’s 64.
There’s little doubt that Kaepernick offers both a higher floor as well as a significantly higher ceiling than Kessler does should anything catastrophic happen to Brady. Obviously the Patriots go as Brady goes, and the New England legend has become quite adept over the past two decades at keeping his body pliable and well-conditioned to withstand the gruel of a long NFL season.
As injury-averse as No. 12 has always been though, he’s still a 42-year-old quarterback playing a brutal, bone-jarring sport. A look around the league shows just how quickly a team’s fortunes can change when their signal-caller goes down… and 2019 has been a particularly unlucky year for starting quarterbacks on the injury front.
Kaepernick definitely has more upside than Kessler and Stidham combined, and his previous experience – particularly in high-pressure environments like the postseason – would be extremely useful to the Patriots and Bill Belichick if anything ever happened to Brady. Whether short-term or long-term, a Brady absence from the starting lineup is better mitigated with Kaepernick inserted than it is with either of the two current backup QBs.
Another good reason to at least attend Kaepernick’s workout and consider signing him is his dual-threat capability at the position.
The Patriots have struggled at times with mobile quarterbacks who can run as well as they can throw. Observers need look no further for proof than the demolition job in Week 9 at the hands of the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson; the New England defense eventually figured out ways to slow him down ever so slightly, but by then it was too late. The Patriots have similarly had their hands full with the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Panthers’ Cam Newton, and – surprise, surprise – with Kaepernick himself in the past.
Back in December of 2012, Kaepernick led Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers team into Foxborough and handed the Patriots a rare home loss, beating them 41-34. Kaepernick threw for 221 yards and four touchdowns, ran for 28 yards, and finished the night with a blistering 108.5 quarterback rating.
New England still has upcoming dates scheduled with the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, and the Bills’ Josh Allen – all of whom represent some of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL today. There’s also a very good chance the Patriots could face Jackson and the Ravens again in the playoffs at some point. If they make it all the way to Super Bowl LIV, they could find Wilson and the Seahawks waiting for them there in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX, too.
Consider what adding Kaepernick to this team could mean from a practice standpoint. The Pats acknowledged both before and after their loss to the Ravens that there was no real way to prepare themselves for a player like Jackson, because they didn’t have anyone on their roster who could emulate Jackson’s abilities on the scout team in the week of practice leading up to the game.
Kaepernick certainly isn’t Jackson – no one really is – but he’d still do a much better job at giving the New England defense opportunities to prepare themselves for dual-threat QBs than Kessler or Stidham would. That kind of training experience could be invaluable given the slate of talented signal-callers standing in the way as potential landmines between the Patriots winning a seventh Super Bowl championship.
All in all, there’s really no reason why the team shouldn’t send a scout or scouts to the workout this Saturday. The Patriots have nothing to lose in attending Kaepernick’s session… and they could have a whole world to gain if they like what they see there and decide he’s worth the risk in bringing aboard.