At this time in 2017, it was beginning to become apparent that there wasn’t much interest among NFL teams in Colin Kaepernick, who had hit the open market at the start of that free agency period. A full year out the league later, it seems more unlikely than ever that the former 49ers quarterback will land on a roster, but don’t tell that to the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

That, of course, would be Jon Gruden, who said Tuesday (via ESPN) he was “surprised” at Kaepernick’s lack of employment and opined that the 30-year-old player would be back in the NFL “soon.” Gruden added that there was “a lot of intrigue” in Kaepernick, although the latter’s “performance on the field wasn’t very good, on tape.”

“I think, Robert Griffin, a rookie of the year, [I’m] surprised he’s out there,” Gruden said at the league meetings in Orlando. “Tim Tebow takes a team to the playoffs, there’s some surprise that he never came back. You know, Johnny Manziel, he’s out there.

“Back to Kaepernick, he got beat out by [Blaine] Gabbert to start the [2016] season. I think that says something,” the former “Monday Night Football” analyst continued.

“[But] I am surprised he’s not in camp with somebody. He probably will be soon.”

Gruden might be the only one with that much confidence that Kaepernick will get signed by an NFL team, even as a fringe candidate to make the Week 1 roster. As happened last year, a number of quarterbacks with markedly less impressive résumés, including the likes of David Fales, Josh Johnson, Tom Savage and Matt Barkley, have been taken off the free agent market this month.

Even Gabbert, of whom Gruden clearly does not think highly — and with justification, given that quarterback’s performances over the past two seasons — has found a team, reportedly getting signed Tuesday by the Titans, after latching on with the Cardinals last year. Gabbert did, as the coach noted, beat out Kaepernick for the starting gig in San Francisco in 2016, but the latter was recovering from shoulder surgeries that weakened his throwing arm, and he not only got his job back just six games into the season after Gabbert struggled but put up markedly better numbers.

In other words, NFL teams have given every impression that they would rather pick through the quarterback scrap heap than give another chance to a player with a solid career passer rating (88.9), a very good touchdown-to-interception ratio (72:30), elite running ability and proven effectiveness in the playoffs. That almost certainly has to do with Kaepernick’s status as the player who first began kneeling during the national anthem before games, inspiring others, and his ongoing political activism.

Kaepernick himself believes that’s the case, and he filed a grievance against the NFL last year, alleging collusion by team owners. There has been some speculation that the quarterback might be willing to drop that grievance, the discovery process for which could reveal things that the league would rather remain private, if he gets signed. But so far there have been no takers, despite his efforts to show that he is still ready to play.

Of course, if Gruden really feels that Kaepernick deserves to be “in camp with somebody,” he could always, you know, sign him. It’s not like the Raiders are stacked with quarterback talent behind starter Derek Carr, having added the aforementioned Johnson (career passer rating: 57.7, no starts since 2011) to compete with inexperienced Connor Cook and Bills washout EJ Manuel.

On the other hand, by lumping Kaepernick in with Griffin, Tebow and Manziel, Gruden was damning him with, well, what doesn’t even qualify as faint praise. Feel free to be “surprised” if Kaepernick does ends up signing with Oakland, or any other NFL team.

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