When Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers just ahead of free agency in March, he likely wasn’t expecting to be out of work this long. There have been few indications of interest from NFL teams, a situation some ascribe to the quarterback’s social activism, but Monday brought news that the Seahawks could be a landing spot.
On a Seattle radio station, Coach Pete Carroll said (via ESPN) that his team wants to add competition for the role of backup quarterback behind Russell Wilson. After being asked specifically about Kaepernick and another free agent, Robert Griffin III, Carroll said, “We’re looking at everybody. We really are. We’ve been tracking everything that’s going on, and we’ve got cap and roster issues and stuff like that that we’re still trying to manage properly.
“But quite frankly, yes, we are looking at all those guys.”
Seahawks GM John Schneider reached out to Colin Kaepernick's agent last Friday. Interest in him as potential backup is legit. @nflnetwork
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) May 16, 2017
Griffin was released by the Browns at the start of free agency, ending a one-year stint with the team after beginning the season as its starter but suffering a major shoulder injury in Week 1. He returned to make four late-season starts, posting a 59.2 completion percentage with two touchdown passes, three interceptions, 22 sacks taken and a 72.5 passer rating.
In 11 starts with San Francisco last season, Kaepernick also posted a 59.2 completion percentage, but he threw for 16 touchdowns against four interceptions, with 36 sacks taken and a 90.7 rating. Critics of his on-field performance pointed to continued issues with accuracy, touch and diagnosing defenses, but former coach Tony Dungy was one of the the latest people to allege that the quarterback is being effectively blackballed because of his national anthem protests last year.
“Without that national anthem [protest], someone would have signed him by now,” Dungy told Newsday’s Bob Glauber. “If you’re seen as a distraction off the field, for whatever reason, you better have a lot of talent going for you.”
Noting that Michael Vick and Joe Mixon both found NFL jobs, despite off-field actions that made them pariahs to many, Dungy said, “They always sign talent if they think he’s going to upgrade your team.” He added, though, that “people don’t see [Kaepernick] as a starting quarterback” and thus might believe that he’s not “worth the criticism.”
Kaepernick had an on-field rivalry with Wilson and the Seahawks while with the 49ers, but Seattle would make sense as his new home. Kaepernick, who has indicated that he won’t continue to kneel during pre-game playings of the anthem, already has support within Seattle’s locker room, with cornerback Jeremy Lane briefly staging his own anthem protest last season, and with the defensive stars Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman speaking up for the widely criticized quarterback.
“Kap is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL,” Bennett said in March (via the News Tribune). “He’s also one of the most genuine people you could possibly meet. All the stuff that he’s doing off the field, the things that he’s doing in the communities, he’s just serving everybody. Teams should be happy to have a leader like that, a guy who’s dedicated to the people around him and he’s dedicated to making their life better. The only thing he could do is make the offense even better.”
In addition, the Seahawks have an uncertain situation behind Wilson. Their No. 2 quarterback, Trevone Boykin, is inexperienced and has some ongoing legal issues, with similarly green Jake Heaps providing more depth.
In addition to providing experience, both Kaepernick and Griffin would be schematically well-suited to backing up Wilson, as each has great familiarity with the read-option offense the team likes to run, although Griffin has struggled to avoid injuries. Each also has a big arm and, as options dwindle, would likely accept a modest salary with bonuses based on play.