One of the biggest stories in the NFL over the last few years was and still is the Colin Kaepernick saga. The hotly debated story is of course well-known by now. It all started early in the 2016 season, when Kaepernick began protesting during the National Anthem: the then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback knelt as a symbol of his fight for criminal justice reform as well as improved police/community relations and community engagement.
The protests quickly became a nationwide story primarily due to a change in narrative and the polarization it caused: the issue of “disrespecting the flag/country/military” was pushed into center stage by pundits and even the president, turning the NFL sidelines in the place to watch on Sunday. The league itself reacted by adapting its protocol — and by colluding against Kaepernick after he became a free agent in March 2017.
The latter part, at least, is the basic argumentation brought forward by Kaepernick in the grievance he and ex-49er Eric Reid — now a starting safety for the Carolina Panthers — filed against the league. Last week, the dispute was resolved and the question now becomes if Kaepernick will join Reid as an active NFL player again. According to his lawyer, Mark Geragos, the quarterback does want to return to the gridiron again.
“He absolutely wants to play, he wants to compete at the highest level,” Geragos recently told CNN about his client who last appeared in a competitive football game in January 2017. “This is a competitive young man [...] he’s only 31 years old, he’s not somebody that is over the hill. He’s somebody that is in his prime. You get smarter at that position and he’s wise beyond his years.”
Geragos continued by pointing out three potential teams he could see make a run for the quarterback — one of them the Panthers, who already signed Reid in September 2017. A second team Kaepernick’s lawyer did not name as he just said it would not surprise him if “his former coach also makes a move.” Who Geragos actually meant is anyone’s guess, but Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio and Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman would fit the description best.
And then there is the New England Patriots. “It would not surprise me if Bob Kraft makes a move,” Geragos said about the reigning world champions and their owner’s potential intentions. New England, of course, is a) well equipped at the quarterback position with Tom Brady still going strong despite turning 42 in August, and b) a popular destination that oftentimes gets named by agents to generate more interest in their client.
Besides that, Geragos’ statement includes a factual error: team owner Robert Kraft would not make a move, but the front office led by head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick would. Anything is possible when it comes to Belichick, yes, but the underlying theme of his decisions always is the same: helping his team win football games. Would adding Kaepernick and the media circus that would certainly follow do that?
Belichick and his club already dealt with somewhat similar scenarios over the years, signing Tim Tebow as a free agent as the closest example that comes to mind. In that way, acquiring Kaepernick would be nothing out of the ordinary. However, that alone would not be the deciding factor: after all, the 31-year old has not played in over two years and is a questionable fit to back up a true pocket passer like Brady. And that equation does not even include the financial aspect yet.
Ultimately, therefore, it would be a surprise if the Patriots indeed added Kaepernick. Stranger things have of course happened in New England, but the #7 jersey will probably remain unused for the time being.