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3 years later, the NFL is more suited for Colin Kaepernick than ever

Terez Paylor
Senior NFL writer

Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to hold a league-mandated workout on Saturday in front of nearly a dozen NFL teams. It’s unclear how well the event will go and whether it will result in Kaepernick getting signed, and there’s no shortage of sides with skin in this high-stakes game that may be a public-relations ploy.

But here’s the undeniable truth: If Kaepernick has indeed kept himself in shape, and has been throwing regularly, then he should find a job in the NFL, whether it’s immediately or in a matter of weeks or months.

After looking at the first 10 weeks of NFL games, it’s clear the professional game has never been more suitable to his talents.

Look at many of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Most of them are adept mobile creators. You’ve got Patrick Mahomes, the reigning MVP. There’s also Deshaun WatsonRussell Wilson and Lamar Jackson, all top-five MVP candidates who dazzle fans and opponents alike on a weekly basis.

At his peak, Colin Kaepernick used his mobility and arm to the Super Bowl in 2013. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

In 2012, Kaepernick was doing a lot of the same things while leading the 49ers to the cusp of a Super Bowl victory and the NFC championship game a season later, as he was touted as the next great dual-threat quarterback. He generally delivered on that promise.

Here’s the point where Kaepernick’s critics like to point out his 2015 and 2016 campaigns, when he went 3-16 as a starter. This is also the time when I’d like to point out his coaches those two years were Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula, and despite this — and the fact those two teams had two players combined make the Pro Bowls in those years — Kaepernick still completed 59.1 percent of passes for 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while rushing for 724 yards and three scores.

Kaepernick is 32 now, and no one is under delusions he’ll be the same ridiculous, dynamic athlete he was seven or even three years ago. But in case you haven’t noticed, there are no shortage of middling backup quarterbacks on NFL rosters, players who — even if they reach their zeniths — won’t ever be as good as Kaepernick likely is now. 

Besides, the NFL as a whole is widely moving toward spread, college-style offenses, filled with run-pass options that Kaepernick helped make vogue during his ascendancy in San Francisco. 

Take a look at the 7-2 Baltimore Ravens, for example. Baltimore is thriving using a run-heavy scheme that allows Jackson, the league’s 11th-leading rusher, to create in the run game and — thanks to the threat of that — regularly connect on play-action deep shots. The Ravens’ offense ranks third in the NFL in DVOA, while offenses guided by teams with the aforementioned mobile quarterbacks — Kansas CitySeattle and Houston — rank second, fourth and ninth, respectively.

Meanwhile another mobile quarterback, Dak Prescott, leads the league’s first-ranked offense in DVOA, while Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers — whose feats of mobility are legendary — leads an offense that ranks sixth.

So tell me again, if Kaepernick reports in great shape Saturday, and he looks spry, why couldn’t he play in today’s game? Under those circumstances, he could. This isn’t about the man’s politics — it’s about his play.

That’s why he should definitely go through with the workout, despite the appearance of it being a trap. The NFL gave him two hours Tuesday to agree to Saturday’s workout, and gave him little room for negotiation. 

It was a no-risk proposition for the league, which wins if he goes through with it because he can no longer say a team won’t work him out. It also wins if he turns it down as Kaepernick’s detractors can say, see, he doesn’t want to play.

But going through the workout is also a no-risk proposition for Kaepernick, especially if he reports in great shape. If he rips it up, it will prove that over the past three years, he was indeed serious about playing, which will shut up many of his detractors. 

Even if he doesn’t look great, there has been enough doubt cast on the sincerity of the workout at the league that his backers won’t believe he got a fair shot Saturday, and his legacy as an athlete who risked a lucrative career by staging protests against injustice would remain intact.

But the best-case scenario — that he throws well, gets signed soon and rejoins the league — remains a possibility as he never should have been exiled from the NFL in the first place. 

And if that happens, the primary reason for that will be that the league has never been better suited for his talents.

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