A fascinating series of events have transpired the past couple of weeks to open up the NFL’s new season. Watching guys like Brock Osweiler, Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford rake in $18-20 million while Colin Kaepernick is being dragged through the mud, it’s clear something is wrong.
Kaepernick desperately wants to be traded away from the San Francisco 49ers. The Broncos aren’t interested in exchanging Kaepernick for their second-round pick, and the Cleveland Browns reportedly want to cut his salary in half, essentially mirroring what is going on with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Kaepernick led the 49ers to two straight NFC Championships and was one overthrown pass from being a Super Bowl-winning quarterback against the Baltimore Ravens.
If anyone should be payed based on “potential,” perhaps Kaepernick should be at the top of the list. However, because the last thing on everyone’s mind is his regression in 2014 and the humiliation that was 2015, he’s being given the cold shoulder, rather than an Osweiler-type warm embrace.
Before the past two seasons doomed him in the eyes of many, this was a quarterback who many believed was the next evolution at the position. He passed for 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his first season and a half as a starter. He added 939 yards and nine touchdowns rushing, playing in a system that accentuated his talents to perfection.
When you look at Osweiler, Cousins and Bradford, what you’re seeing is two guys who haven’t ever before performed at a high level for an entire NFL season and another guy who is still somehow being looked at through the prism of potential after missing 33 games in six years due to injury.
Cousins had a pretty dismal first six games in 2015, throwing six touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he got hot to finish the year and managed to get the Washington Redskins into the playoffs, throwing 23 touchdowns and just three picks the final 10 games of the campaign.
He’s signed for one year on a franchise tag which pays him just under $20 million. After one glorious 10-game stretch. Even though everything in his career before that stretch showed him to be a turnover machine and average quarterback.
Osweiler has only started in seven career games. Not even half a season. And it’s not like he was a world beater out there for the Broncos when he started in place of Peyton Manning. He finished the 2015 season with 1,967 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.
He just signed a contract with the Houston Texans that pays him $72 million over four years. Even Matt Flynn could not believe his eyes when those numbers came through — irony so rich it makes your stomach hurt.
Bradford somehow has tricked people into thinking he’s still the bright-eyed rookie coming out of Oklahoma, rather than an above-average passer who cannot for the life of him play 16 games in a season. He’s getting $22 million to quarterback for the Eagles this year.
Yet Kaepernick can’t even crack $10 million? He’s not worth what is darn-near a third-round pick to the Broncos?
We all understand the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of league, but this pretty much takes the cake.
Essentially, the Browns appear to value Kaepernick about as much as the Eagles value backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who signed a three-year deal worth $21 million. The Broncos don’t trust him enough to give up a high draft pick. If a team thinks it has a potential franchise passer for a second-round pick it happily makes that exchange.
If Osweiler, Bradford and Cousins are worth $18-20 million, then to be honest it’s disgraceful that Kaepernick is being asked to accept such a discounted contract. It’s no wonder he is balking at taking such a big pay cut to play for the Browns — a team that is seeing an exodus that seems similar to the one he experienced in San Francisco one year ago.
All the while, it seems the only team that values Kaepernick the way he wants to be valued is the team that has a signed contract still in hand. 49ers head coach Chip Kelly would love a chance to mold him into a superstar, but obviously there are some bitter feelings keeping Kaepernick from reciprocating.
Whatever happens, you have to believe Kaepernick, still young at the age of 28 (not much older than Aaron Rodgers was when he started playing for the Green Bay Packers), will have a gigantic chip on his shoulder the rest of his NFL career.
He has a lot to prove, but if he can overcome the adversity that has plagued him the past couple of years this is a player who certainly has the potential to become a league superstar once again.