With 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch looking like a colossal bust and 2017 seventh-rounder Chad Kelly completely lacking in NFL experience, the Broncos appear very much like a team that could sorely use a veteran quarterback to back up Case Keenum. General Manager John Elway addressed that topic on Thursday, and while he acknowledged the possibility of adding such a player, he ruled out any chance that it could be Colin Kaepernick.
“Well, you know what, and I said this a while ago, Colin had his chance here,” Elway told reporters. “We offered him a contract. He didn’t take it.
“And as I said it in my deposition, I don’t know if I’ll be legally able to say this, but he had his chance to be here. He passed it.”
Elway was referring to a deposition he gave to Kaepernick and his legal team in May as part of the former 49ers quarterback’s grievance against the NFL. Kaepernick is alleging that, since he parted ways with San Francisco in March 2017, team owners have colluded to keep him out of the league as punishment for his social activism, most notably his role in the protests against racial injustice that players have been staging during pregame renditions of the national anthem.
The contract offer occurred in the spring of 2016, when Kaepernick was coming off a disappointing season in which he had been benched for Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers were exploring trade options. What Elway did not mention Thursday was that, according to reports at the time, he wanted Kaepernick to take a major pay cut in agreeing to join the Broncos.
NBC Bay Area cited a source close to the situation in reporting then that Denver was offering Kaepernick annual salaries of $7 million for both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Given that the quarterback was slated to make around $26.5 million in that span from San Francisco, he would have had to give up a very large amount of money to take advantage of his “chance.”
Kaepernick was reportedly willing to consider an offer from the Broncos that involved less money then he was set to get from the 49ers, but apparently not what could have been a 50 percent slash in earnings, depending on how some contract clauses played out. That seems eminently understandable, and it was hardly the only detail Elway omitted Thursday that would seem to provide some notable context to his comments.
As a few observers pointed out, after Brock Osweiler passed on a contract offer from the Broncos for more money with the Texans, Elway wasn’t too miffed to give that quarterback a second chance last season. And while Kaepernick’s career certainly declined from its heights of 2012 and 2013, when he led the 49ers to consecutive NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance, Osweiler never showed that kind of ability.
So passing on one chance to sign a contract with the Broncos hasn’t always meant a point of no return for Elway, and there’s not reason to think it would. After all, that would hardly be an effective way to run an operation in the NFL, where there is annually plenty of roster turnover and the relative lack of guaranteed contracts means that players are always incentivized to take as much money as they can, as soon as they can.
Of course, there is, you know, the other thing with Kaepernick. In that context, the fact that Elway has been a major supporter of President Trump is worth noting, especially after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly said in his own deposition earlier this year that Trump had personally told him that the president’s frequent criticism of player protests was a “a very winning, strong issue.”
“Tell everybody, you can’t win this one,” Jones said Trump told him, per reports. “This one lifts me.”
Another owner, the Dolphins’ Stephen Ross, has stated that Trump has made an impact with his accusations that the protests are unpatriotic and disrespect the military. “I like Donald [Trump],” Ross said in March (via the New York Daily News). “I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about.
“From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that.”
Kaepernick’s grievance filing in October cited Trump’s influence on team owners, saying that “athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the executive branch of our government.” Since then, his legal team has not had much to say, with Kaepernick attorney Mark Geragos indicating last month that the arbitrator in charge of the grievance process has imposed a gag order on all parties involved.
That would explain the mid-sentence realization by Elway, whose contract offer came before Kaepernick began his protests, that perhaps he shouldn’t reveal any details of his deposition. As it was, what little he did offer was enough to make headlines, but his comments were at least as interesting for what he neglected to mention.
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