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Could Kaepernick settlement lead to return to the NFL?

NFL free agent

Some major news broke around the football world on Friday when the lawyer for free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced that a settlement has been made between the NFL and his client.

Said settlement stems from Kaepernick claiming that the NFL and its owners colluded to keep him out of the league after he started the National Anthem protests in 2016. Kaepernick has been unemployed each of the past two seasons.

This stunning news got us thinking. Is this a prelude to Kaepernick actually regaining employed in the NFL? Here’s a look at that possibility from all sides.

Optics for the NFL: It would’ve been bad PR is Kaepernick signed with a team while a lawsuit was ongoing.

  • Sure Eric Reid signed with the Panthers while in the midst of his own collusion case against the NFL. But he’s nowhere near the high-profile figure that Kaepernick is.
  • As we’ve seen under the leadership of Roger Goodell, the NFL is all about its own PR. Kaepernick starring for a team while still in the midst of a lawsuit wouldn’t be great.
  • Details of the settlement are sealed due to a confidentiality agreement. Though, some wonder whether the NFL agreed to help Kaepernick seek employment.

Market will be severely limited: Let’s not fool ourselves, Kaepernick is still a highly divisive figure.

  • Whether we agree with Kaepernick is irrelevant here. He’s a divisive figure — something that has played a role in teams avoiding the quarterback.
  • Teams in conservative-leaning regions would have a hard time justifying to their fan base the signing of Kaepernick. It really that simple.
  • Remember, the NFL and its teams exist solely because of their fans. Creating a rift between the team and a large portion of its fan base is not a great business model.

Market could dictate interest: On the field, Kaepernick remains a better option than a ton of quarterbacks.

  • The Broncos’ decision to trade for Joe Flacco magnified just how weak the quarterback market is this offseason. The names being bandied about don’t really inspire confidence moving forward.
  • The likes of Blake Bortles, C.J. Beathard, Brock Osweiler, Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez and Jeff Driskel started games last season. No one with a straight face can argue they were better options than Kaepernick.
  • As most figured, Kaepernick’s unemployment was about a lot more than football. And for good reason. Whether that changes now depends on the market dynamic.

The NFL’s changing dynamics: We know full well the NFL paid a ton of cash to keep details of settlement private.

  • We’re not going to speculate exactly how much the NFL paid in its settlement. But it stands to reason the number is in the tens of millions.
  • The idea here was to keep details of the settlement and court fight private. By pushing a team to sign Kaepernick, the NFL would be putting this entire thing to rest.
  • It’s something we’ve seen in the past. Remember, the NFL sought out teams to sign Michael Sam — the first openly gay player — years back. Optics are not foreign to the league.

The end game: Chances are still low Kaepernick lands a job.

  • In the end, landing a job in the NFL remains unlikely for Kaepernick. He hasn’t played since the 2016 season and is now 31 years old.
  • If Kaepernick were to land a job, it would be either as a backup or battling for a starting job. Is that worth it for the quarterback given what he continues to do off the field?
  • Kaepernick obviously isn’t hurting for money. Given that he turned down an opportunity to play in the AAF, that’s magnified further. This settlement brings that to a new level.

In the end, Kaepernick would have to find himself in the perfect situation to return to the NFL. In turn, any team signing him would have to weigh the factors we mentioned above.

It’s certainly less than even odds that Kaepernick ever plays another down in the NFL. But Friday’s settlement significantly increased said odds.