Speculation regarding Colin Kaepernick’s future in the NFL has running rampant since the end of the 2015 season. While and signs of immaturity have led many people around the league to question his long-term viability as a franchise quarterback.
The 49ers locked up Kaepernick to a long-term extension prior to the 2014 season, but thanks to a recent contract restructure, the two sides were able to officially part ways with minimal financial impact this offseason.
There should be some interest in Kaepernick on the open market, despite the fact that he went 3-16 in his last 19 starts. He proves that he can win games (both regular and postseason) at the NFL level, and possesses a rare and unique physical skill set. A quick look at his 2016 stat line proves that Kaepernick is still fully capable of leading an NFL offense.
With that said, Kaepernick’s could very well find himself in a backup role with his next team. Either way, here are eight potential landing spots for Kaepernick in 2017.
1. Cleveland Browns
Last offseason, shortly after the Browns hired Hue Jackson as their next head coach, Kaepernick expressed an interest in moving to Cleveland. The Browns eventually settled on Robert Griffin III as the solution to their quarterback woes, but he spent the bulk of the 2016 season on the team’s Injured Reserve list. With Griffin getting the ax earlier this offseason, the Browns are clearly in the market for another quarterback this offseason.
2. Indianapolis Colts
Make no mistake about it: This is Andrew Luck‘s team and likely will be for the next 10 or 15 years. That said, 2015 taught us that Luck isn’t immune from the injury bug. And with Scott Tolzien as the only other experienced quarterback on their roster, the Colts could undoubtedly use an experienced backup who knows how to win in the NFL.
We’re not sure how likely the Colts would be to bring in a controversial player such as Kaepernick — especially since their owner Jim Irsay isn’t a fan of players kneeling during the National Anthem — but we do know that the Nevada Wolfpack legend would be an upgrade over Tolzien as the team’s backup quarterback.
3. Seattle Seahawks
For this scenario to happen, Kaepernick would have to be willing to go to a team that he once considered his most bitter rival in the NFL. He’d also have to accept the fact that he wouldn’t see the field without an injury to Russell Wilson. With that being the case, Kaepernick landing with the Seahawks is clearly a long shot (at best). But from purely a skill-set perspective, the six-year NFL veteran would fit well in Seattle’s offensive system.
Update: The Seattle Seahawks passed on Kaepernick in favor of quarterback Austin Davis.
4. Los Angeles Rams
There is no doubt that Jared Goff is the Los Angeles Rams‘ future quarterback. However, the jury is still out on Goff’s long-term viability as a starter. Adding a player such as Kaepernick would not only give the Rams some insurance, but it would also give them a veteran with some credibility to mentor Goff in their quarterback meeting room.
5. New Orleans Saints
This scenario is all about the New Orleans Saints needing a dynamic, starting-caliber backup to 38-year-old Drew Brees. Their 2015 third-round draft pick, Garrett Grayson, who spent the 2016 season on their practice squad, still has a long ways to go. Luke McCown likely won’t lead the team to many wins. Furthermore, with some time to learn from Brees and New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, Kaepernick may be able to resurrect his NFL career.
6. Buffalo Bills
The Bills recently committed themselves to Tyrod Taylor (for at least the next two years), which means that Kaepernick would have to be willing to accept a backup role for this scenario to come to fruition. Nonetheless, with Taylor’s playing style (he is one of the better running quarterbacks in the league), he is one his away from suffering an injury that could keep him out of action for an extended period of time. Buffalo could use a capable backup, and Kaepernick would come with the added benefit of having a very similar skillset to Taylor.
7. Houston Texans
The Texans threw big money at Brock Osweiler last offseason in a move that turned out to be one of the worst free–agent signings in NFL history. And now, after one season with Osweiler running the show, Houston is back in the market for a franchise quarterback.
While Kaepernick may not be a significant upgrade over Osweiler, he does have a better track record of winning games when he has a strong supporting cast. This one will all come down to whether or not Houston lands Tony Romo.
8. New York Jets
It’s no secret that the Jets are in the market for a new quarterback. The Ryan Fitzpatrick era is over, Geno Smith is now a member of the New York Giants, and there is no telling whether or not Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg have what it takes to guide the Gang Green back to the postseason.
Kaepernick would make sense here (we think the Jets would do better with Jay Cutler, though) as a bridge until the Jets find their long-term answer at the most important position in football.