While the controversy continues to swirl around San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his protest involving the flag and national anthem, another question may need to be asked. Is Kaepernick leveraging his way out of San Francisco?
Now before you call me crazy, let me preface this by saying I am not a conspiracy theorist by nature. But upon closer examination, the parts just may be adding up to the sum in this case.
And although quarterback Colin Kaepernick has made the 49ers 53-man roster, if the controversy continues to mount, the Niners may still decide to part ways with him.
As we are all aware, the rift between Kaepernick and the organization has roots as far back as the first few weeks of the disastrous 2015 season. Kap struggled out of the gate, passing for just 1,615 yards with just six touchdowns to go along with five interceptions in nine games.
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As the team struggled, Kaepernick was benched midway through the year and later placed on season-ending injured reserve for a left shoulder injury. Rumors and speculation began to swirl he was unhappy that he was being made the scapegoat by upper management for last season’s failures and 5-11 record.
Reports also claimed that he was a loner in the locker room as well as his teammates felt he was not a very good leader and did not study film enough.
While these reports were more rumor than proven fact, it seemed to create an irreconcilable situation between the two.
And while the Denver Broncos were seemingly very interested (especially after Kaepernick met with general manager John Elway), the two sides were unable to come to a contract agreement to make a trade possible.
Kaepernick refused to take a pay cut, reported to be nearly $5 million dollars, to facilitate the trade.
Likewise, the 49ers refused to pay the difference between the guaranteed $11.9 million contract and the $7 million the Broncos were offering Kap.
Kaepernick ultimately came back to the 49ers and seemed immersed into learning new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense.
But his recovery has been slow. And he showed a bit of rust in his first action versus the Green Bay Packers. It also happened to be the first time someone took notice of him not standing or taking part during the national anthem.
Kaepernick’s Protest & Cut-Seeking Theory
To his credit, Kap did not flinch when asked postgame by NFL.com’s Steve Wyche about the incident. Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Now, the flood of news stories has been focused on the controversy. But maybe Kaepernick has decided this could be his “out.”
Perhaps he is trying to force the Niners to release him, which would the allow him to sign with any other team without taking the pay cut the Broncos were hoping he would take.
After all, his contract with the team is now fully guaranteed for 2016.
How great would it be for him if Kap were to have his proverbial cake and eat it to? In other words, take the nearly $12 million he is guaranteed and sign with another team.
The 49ers would still be on the hook for the difference between the $11.9 million and whatever another team would pay him.
As is the case every year, there are a few intriguing options for him if he were to leave.
The Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and, perhaps. the Broncos are all in need of quarterbacks.
The Cowboys and Vikings are definitely looking for a backup at the very least. While the Broncos will be opening the season with Trevor Simien and rookie Paxton Lynch as their top two quarterbacks.
Neither has taken a snap in a regular-season game in their career.
Kaepernick, who looked solid against the San Diego Chargers, (albeit against the Chargers’ roster-bubble players) may be protesting his way out of a Niner uniform. With the season set to kick off September 11, perhaps general manager Trent Baalke will not want the team to deal with the distraction.
After all, even after all the scrutiny over the NFL’s handling of recent domestic violence issues with Ray Rice and Greg Hardy, the Cowboys still decided to sign Hardy.
And although it didn’t work out, teams will continue to take chances on players they deem talented enough to help them win games.
Not to mention, as much as some may disagree with Kap’s method of protest, he is not committing a crime by taking a seat or a knee.
And even if Kap initiated this without a second thought in regards to his roster spot or endorsement deals, the pieces may be falling into place by happenstance.
If Kap sees the writing on the wall (i.e. he will not be the starter in San Francisco), he may decide to continue his protest, week in and week out, and force the Niners brass to cut him.
It would be a win-win for him, with his guaranteed money and freedom to sign with whoever he wants.
Perhaps I am giving Kap way too much credit in this instance. Or perhaps he is playing chess while the news media, the fans and 49ers management are playing checkers.
And if something were to happen to No. 1 QB Blaine Gabbert, with Kaepernick still on the roster, the game could become even more complex.
With the regular season right around the corner, one thing is certain. The 49ers will be in the spotlight one way or another. Let’s just hope it is for something positive this season.