Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been invited to work out for N.F.L. teams this weekend, possibly a step toward a return to the N.F.L. for the first time since the 2016 season.
The news set off a flurry of speculation. Some fans said they hoped Kaepernick could help their team. Some said they didn’t want him because of his history of kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality. And some suggested the workout was a sham designed to put a good face on what they considered Kaepernick’s blackballing by the N.F.L., noting that the workout will be on Saturday, when teams travel to away games.
Will Kaepernick, 32, finally get back in uniform? If he does, will he be a starter or a clipboard holder? Could his running skills give him a role as a part-time wildcat quarterback?
Let’s take a look at some possible landing places, though it is not confirmed how many teams or which ones will scout him.
The Bengals are making the right noises about having faith in the rookie Ryan Finley, who didn’t show much in his one start. They also have a veteran backup in Andy Dalton.
But the team is 0-9. Coach Zac Taylor was thought of as a guy who would take chances, and he has to be desperate for a win. At this point in the N.F.L., there is no greater gamble than bringing in Kaepernick.
The online bookmaker Sportsbetting.ag has listed the Bengals as the favorite to sign Kaepernick, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers (who are already on their backup, Mason Rudolph) and the Baltimore Ravens (he would fit the system currently tailored to Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III).
The Lions were getting good production out of Matthew Stafford until he hurt his back. And Jeff Driskel was poor in his one start replacing him.
The main question is how badly Stafford is hurt. The Lions played it close to the vest over the weekend, ruling him out only at game time. His status going forward is uncertain, but there have been reports that he has fractures, which sounds pretty serious.
Stafford is known for playing despite injury, so few will be surprised if he comes back soon. If not, and if the Lions can’t live with Driskel, Kaepernick could be an option.
The Colts have had terrible luck at quarterback, with Andrew Luck choosing to retire in August and Jacoby Brissett sitting out last week with an injury. That left the team in the hands of Brian Hoyer, who was 18 for 38 with three interceptions in a loss to the woeful Dolphins.
Especially if Brissett’s injury problems are longer term, the Colts could be looking for quarterback help.
New York Jets
Of quarterbacks with five or more starts, Sam Darnold has the worst statistics. The Jets have also sent out Luke Falk and Trevor Siemian to start this year. They weren’t good either.
The Jets seem still to be committed to Darnold. But the veteran Kaepernick would seem to be a better backup and mentor than David Fales (career starts at quarterback, 0), who is currently the No. 2.
When the season started, most Bears fans were high on Mitch Trubisky and the team’s future. Now the Bears, 12-4 last season, are 4-5, and the doubts have gone from a trickle to a torrent, even after last week’s three-touchdown performance in a win over Detroit. The backup Chase Daniel hasn’t set the league alight either.
The Dolphins have probably had the worst quarterback play in the league, switching between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen (they’re terrible at most other positions as well). But they look less likely to shake up their team than they were a few weeks ago, since Fitzpatrick has been playing better and they have an unlikely two-game winning streak.
The Panthers are 5-4 and still have playoff chances, but they have lost Cam Newton for the season. Luckily, Kyle Allen has been more than able in relief.
Still, with Allen’s backup being a rookie, Will Grier, and with Newton possibly leaving town before he ever plays for the Panthers again, Kaepernick could be a hedge against uncertainty.
Let’s be honest. Kaepernick is not exactly an unknown quantity. Teams have had multiple chances to sign him over almost three years, and all have passed. Is a workout open to every team really going to change any minds? Will any team really want to anger some percentage of its fan base and deal with news media headaches for an aging quarterback to stand on the sideline?
Despite the candidates out there, any team signing Kaepernick is far from a sure thing.
Benjamin Hoffman contributed reporting.