The best landing spot for Colin Kaepernick is Green Bay

Not as crazy as it sounds

Kaep grew up a Packers fan — sure to make some local sports editor happy during story-pitch time.

Cheese. It’s not typically vegan, so that might be a barrier right there. Assuming the recent rumored kerfuffle over Colin Kaepernick’s vegan diet can be overcome by brighter nutritional minds than yours or mine, let’s choose to believe for a moment that the former star quarterback, now currently pounding the pavement looking for NFL work, can come to a mutual understanding with his next team about how to properly maintain his body.

I think we can remain hopeful on that front.

Beyond that, there are several other rumored issues that are purportedly stopping the once-ascendant quarterback talent from securing gainful employment.

  • He’s not starter caliber.
  • He’s trouble.
  • He’s declining.

If you don’t buy those arguments (I don’t), then there is also another factor working against Kaepernick: Timing. The clock is ticking. Suitors have been eliminated. The potential gain of adding a quarterback lessens with every day not spent in off-season submersion into his next team’s offensive program.

The answer is Green Bay

If the question of what’s best for both Kaepernick and the franchise that lands him is aimed at a mutually beneficial outcome, the solution is for the Green Bay Packers to add Kaepernick as their backup quarterback.

But wait, you say. Doesn’t Green Bay already have a promising young quarterback in development that they’re happy with? Yes, it appears. Brett Hundley, was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He is half-way through his four-year contract.

Hundley is talented and considered to be on an upward arc. Teams to do not willingly give up promising young quarterbacks in development and Hundley will be exceedingly cheap to employ over the next two years with a 2017 salary of $615,000 and a 2018 salary of $705,000 to be paid. He will be a free agent in 2019, which is the reason why Hundley, if he actually wants to play football, will be eager to move on to a team that will put him on the field. Because Hundley will not get on the regular season playing field for significant snaps in Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers is not going anywhere for a long time to come; certainly not within the next two or three seasons. This means Hundley will either (most likely) leave as a free agent in 2019 or will (less likely) re-sign for backup money in 2019 to wait behind Rodgers, who has repeatedly stated he plans to play until he is as old or older than his diet & longevity idol, 39-year-old-and-not-stopping Tom Brady.

The Packers are almost certainly going to lose Hundley within the next two years, either by free agency defection (with no compensation) or sooner via trade. Either way, the backup quarterback to Aaron Rodgers as he hits the back nine of his career is not currently on the Packers’ roster.

Enter Kaepernick

Kaepernick needs a home and it’s become clear that no NFL team, for good reasons or not, views him as a starter right now. If it’s a temporary backup role he’s interested in, there are a few options. Seattle may want a new backup, given Trevone Boykin’s most recent criminal incident and Pete Carroll’s less than enthusiastic reassurance of Boykin’s future. But I can see Richard Sherman being relentlessly mean to Kaepernick in the Seahawks’ cafeteria, so it might not be a good fit. Other teams needing a backup: Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, every team in the AFC South, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, perhaps a few others.

There is one wild-card starting option for Kaep: The Houston Texans. Clearly, they are hoping to land Tony Romo, but they’re keeping an eye on Kaepernick as a fall-back. Kaep’s fate won’t be determined in Houston until the chips fall where they will for Romo.

But none are better than landing in Green Bay, where Kaepernick can resuscitate his career under the tutelage of Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school and the exemplary leadership of arguably the NFL’s best quarterback, Rodgers.

But what about Hundley? Obviously, the Packers are not going to move Hundley unless they are richly compensated. I don’t see Green Bay moving on from Hundley at this stage for anything less than a second-round draft pick in this month’s draft. From their perspective, collecting a second-round pick for their investment of a fifth-round pick and two years of development would be a win.

From an acquiring team’s perspective, a second-round pick for a potential starter is a more than fair. In fact, it might take more than just a single second-rounder to pry him from Ted Thompson. And there are a few teams that are clearly in need of a new starter with upside. I’m looking at you,

  • Cleveland Browns (current quarterbacks: Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler)
  • New York Jets (current quarterbacks: Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty, Josh McCown)
  • San Francisco 49ers (current quarterbacks: Dumpster Fire, Train Wreck, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer)

Without question, these three teams are drafting a quarterback high in the 2017 draft if they hope to have a positive change at the position in the upcoming season, and for years to come. It will be expensive. It will be, as always, a huge gamble on potential (with a high likelihood of being a bust, given how lousy these teams are). If they like what Hundley has shown in his scant appearances under two years of the McCarthy/Rodgers tutelage, Hundley is an easy trade bargain.

The draft gamble: Odds are that at least one, probably two and possibly all three of the likely top three quarterbacks to be taken in the first-round of the 2017 draft will be busts. Going to a lousy team increases those odds.

All the Packers have to do is make it known that the potential exists to acquire Hundley at the right price. If the quarterback-hungry teams are interested in a young, developing talent at a bargain rate, they can make strong enough offers that the Packers cannot resist, since Hundley’s tenure in Green Bay is soon drawing to a close.

Doesn’t Kaepernick suck, though?

He did. But he didn’t used to. In fact, he started off his career looking like a transformative talent that would become a potentially revolutionary producer for years to come. He made mincemeat of the Green Bay Packers as both a passer and a runner in early match-ups.

And then the wheels came off. The Fox Sports story just above was a preview to the Oct. 4, 2015 contest between the Packers and the 49ers, in which the Kaepernick-led 49ers managed merely 3 points. I was at that game. It was obvious to all that Kaepernick was atrocious: hampered by a bad game plan, surrounded my sub-mediocre talent, unsure in his decision-making and badly, badly missing open receivers.

He got himself benched later in the season and his hapless coach, Jim Tomsula, fired after one season at the helm.

The 2016 season was a different story. It was actually a series of different stories, including Kaepernick’s slow recovery from surgery and subsequent weight loss; yet another new coach and offense; and the controversy surrounding his principled stand against abuse of force against minorities in America. You might have heard a thing or two about that.

Kaepernick did not start a game for the 49ers in 2016 until week six at Buffalo. And when he did, his winning record was atrocious, but then so was the entire 49ers team. The only team they beat in 2016 were the L.A. Rams, twice.

But Kaepernick’s 2016 statistical production makes you take notice: 16 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. For a re-inserted starter on a bad, bad team, a 4:1 TD vs. INT ratio is remarkable. He finished the year with a cumulative quarterback rating of 90.7, including three games with a rating over 100.

The rest of his stats … not so great. He ended the 49ers’ train wreck of a season with a completion percentage of 59.2 and a yards-per-attempt of 6.8.

The tale of the tape

For comparison, Hundley’s 2016 output (he played no games in 2015) is not enough to even generate a quarterback rating. He made 10 pass attempts in mop-up duty, completing two and throwing one interception.

It comes down to anyone in the NFL wanting Hundley. Based on his regular season output, who would? His 2016 preseason was ruined by an ankle injury. Suitors will want to review his 2015 rookie-year preseason, in which he produced a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio and 129.6 passer rating.

Comparing that productivity to the preseason productivity of last year’s first-round draft pick quarterbacks:

  • Jared Goff: 22 of 49 passing (44.9 percent) for 232 yards with two TDs, two INTs and three fumbles.
  • Carson Wentz: 12 of 24 passing (50.0 percent) for 89 yards with no TD passes, one INT and one fumble.
  • Paxton Lynch: 40 of 68 passing (58.8 percent) for 458 yards with four TD passes, two INTs and one fumble.

It’s clear that Brett Hundley’s rookie preseason as a fifth-rounder far outpaced the productivity of all three of last year’s first-round quarterbacks. That’s not the deciding factor, but it is an indication that Hundley may very well have been underdrafted.

A quarterback succession plan for the Green Bay Packers is a “nice to have,” not a current “need to have.” Aaron Rodgers is not going anywhere. All options for Packers backups are stop-gap, until such time in the not foreseeable future that Rodgers starts to decline. If a deal is to be made for Hundley by a quarterback-hungry team, the Packers would be wise to have a viable backup in place. Colin Kaepernick may just be the right choice: Not yet at his athletic peak, possesses playoff-winning experience, has bounced back from adversity, and would benefit from a re-boot in a stable, winning environment.

© julian rogers | The Hit Job

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