By Nick Shook
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Free agency is off and running. Brandon Marshall is changing uniform colors but not home stadiums, Tyrod Taylor is sticking around in Buffalo and fullbacks are hot commodities, apparently.
New head coach Kyle Shanahan even got ready to welcome a new signal-caller to his new digs in Santa Clara, agreeing to terms with Brian Hoyer on a two-year contract. But one Niners quarterback who’s slated to become a free agent at the start of the new league year isn’t drawing much attention.
One wonders, why? Why isn’t Colin Kaepernick, the polarizing but at times productive passer garnering more interest from the other 31 teams in the NFL, or even his own club?
“Just watching the tape on him through the years — now there were games this year (in which) he was better than what I’m going to describe — but for the most part, the body of tape does not show a dropback quarterback,” NFL Network’s Charley Casserly said of Kaepernick on Wednesday. “It shows a quarterback that’s indecisive in his reads and is inaccurate, and he’s not quite the runner he was when he first came into the league. Most quarterbacks aren’t the same runner after they’ve been hit for a while and they slow down a little bit.
“If I’m a dropback team, this guy is just a guy to me. Yeah, we can bring him in, he’s another arm, we’ll work with him. But I don’t see a solution in this guy as a quarterback to be a starter in the National Football League from most of his tape. A couple games this year, Chip Kelly got him going, but overall, not so, especially against blitzing. The Jets showed that in their game this year.”
The high-water mark for Kaepernick in 2016 was the Niners’ improbable comeback win over the Rams in Los Angeles, a game in which Kaepernick engineered multiple scoring drives late in the fourth quarter. He scrambled for a score with just over five minutes to play to cut the deficit to 21-14, then fired a dart to Rod Streater on a quick slant under soft coverage to bring the Niners within a point of tying. On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Kaepernick used his legs again, diving across the goal line to lift the Niners to a win, and for one of the few times during the post-Jim Harbaugh era, looked like a quarterback a team might be OK with keeping moving forward.
But for the majority of Kaepernick’s snaps, what Casserly said unfortunately rings true for the quarterback, and might be what seals his fate. As Shanahan assembles a new roster, there’s no telling whether his plans include Kaepernick. After signing Hoyer, it seems more probable they don’t. As for the rest of the league, Kaepernick is likely facing an uphill battle as someone brought in to compete for a roster spot, and if he’s lucky, the starting job.