Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still without a job in the NFL despite coming off a solid season: 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions while also rushing for 468 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games for the San Francisco 49ers. His career interception rate (1.8 percent) is second-best in NFL history to only Aaron Rodgers.
Yet that didn’t stop the 29-year-old passer from being replaced in San Francisco by Matt Barkley, who signed a two-year deal worth $4 million despite throwing 10 more interceptions in 2016 than Kaepernick in five fewer games.
It didn’t get Kaepernick the backup job in Arizona, either. Instead, the Cardinals inked Blaine Gabbert, who was benched in favor of Kaepernick in San Francisco last season, to a one-year contract. Gabbert threw five touchdowns and six interceptions in six games for the 49ers in 2016.
The Chicago Bears gave Mike Glennon — a backup with a career 59.4 percent completion rate — a three-year, $45 million deal in March with $18.5 million in guaranteed money.
Kaepernick’s career adjusted net yards per pass, which gives a bonus for throwing touchdowns while penalizing a player for interceptions and sacks, is higher than any of them. And, if you look closer at the numbers it seems clear that — based on football acumen alone — Kaepernick deserves to be playing in the National Football League this fall.
If you look at Total Quarterback Rating (Total QBR), Kaepernick would be an upgrade over at least half of the backups in the league today, not including rookies. That list is 18 players long and includes Landry Jones, Case Keenum, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, Scott Tolzien, Geno Smith, Paxton Lynch, Drew Stanton, Bryce Petty, Cardale Jones, Matt Schaub, Derek Anderson, Connor Cook, Brett Hundley, Ryan Mallett, Sean Mannion and Kellen Clemens. Based on down, distance and field position, he helped the 49ers score 30 more points than expected last season through his passing prowess, per ESPN Stats and Information. His 0.09 points added per pass attempt in 2016 is greater than 15 of the backup quarterbacks available or currently on a depth chart.
Kaepernick (55.2) ranked 23rd out of 30 qualified passers in 2016 QBR, placing him ahead of starters like Ryan Tannehill, Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum.
No one is suggesting he should be a starter in the NFL, but the numbers clearly show he would be a smart addition as a backup quarterback. And if you don’t think there’s much value in having a capable backup QB, you should probably have a nice long chat with anyone associated with the Peyton Manning-less 2011 Colts.
One team appears to (finally) have some interest. Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll hinted he could be considering Kaepernick as a backup to Russell Wilson. The current Seahawks’ backup quarterback, Trevone Boykin, has 18 career passes in the NFL.
“We’re looking at everybody. We really are,” Carroll said during a radio appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle. “We’ve been tracking everything that’s going on, and we’ve got cap and roster issues and stuff like that we’re still trying to manage properly. But quite frankly, yes, we are looking at all those guys.”
Kaepernick does two things Carroll covets: he takes care of the ball and he is a threat to run from the pocket. No passer added more points than expected (23) by his ability to run in 2016, and Kapernick’s 22 runs of 10 or more yards were tied with Buffalo Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the most in the league last season. And Taylor played 256 more offensive snaps.
While Wilson’s average yards per run on scrambles has been in decline — in part due to injury last season — Kaepernick set a career-high on these broken plays last season (9.4 per attempt).
Maybe his days as a starter are behind him, but there is no reason Kaepernick shouldn’t be a solid backup in the NFL. And Seattle would make a lot of sense.