Signal callers: From Montana to Kaepernick, these quarterbacks started for the 49ers
Colin Kaepernick's free-agent market is so quiet you can hear a knee drop.
We're only a week or so into free agency and there still are a number of teams in search of both starting and backup quarterbacks, so something could change quickly. But other quarterbacks with flimsier resumes were hungrily snapped up at the start of free agency, and you have to wonder why Kaepernick, who won four playoff games over his career -- three of them on the road -- remains at home waiting for his phone to ring.
Apparently it rung once last week.
Appearing on KNBR radio Friday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said that when the 49ers were signing Matt Barkley last week they learned that Kaepernick was close to signing with another team. "He was, in everyone’s mind in the league, close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number and it fell through, apparently.”
Which team was it? There are several that have no clear-cut quarterback starter at the moment:
* The Jets. They make sense for a number of reasons, the first being that they need a starting quarterback and currently are looking at Josh McCown -- they'd be his eighth NFL team -- for that role. They also have the same combination of strong defense/solid rushing attack with which Kaepernick once excelled with the 49ers. They even hired an offensive coordinator, John Morton, who was San Francisco's receivers coach during Kaepernick's glory days with the 49ers. Furthermore, Kaepernick recently sold his San Jose home and lives in Manhattan.
A big reason why the Jets might not want Kaepernick: Their owner, Woody Johnson, is rumored to be getting an ambassadorship to the United Kingdom from President Donald Trump, who once criticized Kaepernick for not standing during the pre-game national anthem ceremony. Johnson reportedly donated $349,000 to the Trump Victory fund in the run-up to the presidential election. Asked Friday if the Jets and Kaepernick had been close on a deal, Jets spokesman Bruce Speight said he spoke to the team's general manager and salary-cap specialist and was told, “That's not us. Definitely was not us.”
* The Browns. They were one of two teams that inquired about Kaepernick when he asked to be traded last year. Kaepernick, however, turned them down after the Browns parted ways with several quality players in free agency. Did he burn bridges there? Cleveland still has no long-term answer at the position -- though they have plenty of draft capital to use toward a quarterback -- and there have been no reports of Cleveland being interested.
* The Broncos. Denver was the other team that looked into Kaepernick a year ago. But the quarterback refused to accept the steep pay decrease the Broncos wanted him to take and returned to the 49ers instead. Denver subsequently used a first-round pick on a quarterback in the 2016 draft and now appears to be waiting for the Cowboys to release veteran Tony Romo.
* The Texans. They're also likely trying to land Romo after parting ways with 2016 starter Brock Osweiler and his weighty contract. How popular would Kaepernick be in the conservative Lone Star State? Would Houston fans hold Kaepernick's unfortunate social media post from 2015, one that made light of severe flooding in that city, against him? (Kaepernick later took down and apologized for the post).
It's impossible to prove exactly why teams aren't interested in Kaepernick, who threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions last year and posted a 90.7 passer rating. His cool market may be of his own doing in some places -- Cleveland? -- and his national anthem stance likely makes other teams squeamish, even though it never came close to roiling the 49ers locker room, which awarded him the team’s most prestigious honor at season’s end.
Despite that, he seems unlikely to land with the 49ers.
All four of the team's 2016 quarterbacks -- Blaine Gabbert, Thad Lewis, Kaepernick and Christian Ponder -- currently are free agents. However, of those four, only one locker -- Kaepernick's -- had been cleared out with the name plate removed.
Lynch on Friday wouldn't slam the door completely on a possible Kaepernick return. But he made it clear that only the faintest amount of light was seeping through the crack after the team added Brian Hoyer and Barkley last week. The 49ers also are looking closely at the top quarterbacks in the draft and will watch three of them work out next week.
"I think the likelihood of that happening has probably gone down significantly," Lynch said of Kaepernick. "But we're not going to close our minds or our options on anyone, including him."