Colin Kaepernick, the former of quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers who garnered headlines for kneeling during the national anthem, is still a free agent and has yet to be signed by a team. A number of executives around the National Football League (NFL) told ESPN that the reason why is simple: the polarizing nature of Kaepernick isn’t worth the trouble for a team.
The ESPN article quotes an unnamed NFL executive pointing out that teams are concerned that Kaepernick would put his political agenda above the team.
“As a team builder, I cannot risk that happening again, especially for a borderline starter who needs the entire offense catered to his style,” the exec said.
Kaepernick’s style of play is also a factor cited by ESPN’s sources for why teams aren’t signing him, as Kaepernick is more of a hybrid quarterback instead of a traditional pocket passer, which doesn’t fit the offense of most NFL teams.
Additionally, teams are unsure if Kaepernick is truly committed to football.
“Everyone else is worried about him working, but I never hear him say how much he wants to work,” an unnamed offensive coordinator said. “That hits a chord. People want to hear, ‘I want to work in the league, I want to work for you, I want to do this more than anything.’ It’s like with Tim Tebow — he’d rather be on the outside switching sports than be relegated to the [third team] and getting 20% of the reps.”
Another defensive coordinator noted that teams would also be wary of bringing on Kaepernick in case it ruins the locker room chemistry.
“I think coaches are like, ‘Look, if this kid is not starting for us, why are you bringing in distractions not for a starter? We have a pretty good sort of locker room and mesh here. What is the risk-reward?'” the defensive coordinator said. “I don’t think anyone is to the point of making him the starter, and that is the bubble he is getting caught in.”
ESPN’s sources consistently convey the message that Kaepernick might not be as bad as other quarterbacks, but his status as a fringe starter or backup isn’t worth the political baggage he carries. The reward is not worth the risk.
It’s also worth noting that a J.D. Power poll showed that national anthem protests were the number one reason why people didn’t watch as many football games in 2016, showing that signing Kaepernick carries risk from a business perspective in addition to how he might affect a team. No wonder he remains unsigned.