Where will the Colin Kaepernick story go from here?

Jay Busbee

Here’s what we know about Colin Kaepernick’s potential return to the NFL: the league has extended him an invitation to work out in Atlanta on Saturday. Kaepernick has accepted that invitation. Beyond that, literally everything about the Super Bowl quarterback-turned-activist’s journey back to football is speculation.

There are only two possible final outcomes here: Kaepernick suits up again, for the first time since the 2016 season, or he doesn’t.

How do we reach one of those outcomes? Let’s speculate:

Kaepernick shows up, delivers everything a team could want

Let’s start with optimism. Saturday’s pro day involves an interview and a throwing session, and if Kaepernick has been staying in the shape he has claimed for the past three years, it’s possible he could arrive in Atlanta displaying NFL-ready skills. That opens up a whole new set of doors.

Kaepernick signs immediately

Teams who have already announced their intention to send reps to Kaepernick’s workout include the Lions, Cowboys, Jets, Redskins, Falcons, Broncos and Dolphins. Some of those teams need a quarterback, some don’t.

Could one of them suit up Kaepernick for a stretch run? Sure, it’s possible.

Kaepernick’s good, but not good enough

We’re already at Week 11. Teams in the playoff mix don’t really need Kaepernick, and teams out of the playoffs aren’t going to want to jeopardize their draft position with some unexpected wins, particularly with several notable QBs a decade younger than Kaepernick there for the taking.

What if Kaepernick plays well but doesn’t win a job for this season? That sets up more options.

Kaepernick performs well enough to win a camp invite for 2020

This is a test-the-waters move, with several teams expressing interest under the banner of the NFL as a whole to avoid getting singled out, hence the combined, short-notice workout.

(Kaepernick haters would ravage the team; Kaepernick supporters would question any scenario that didn’t end with Kap taking over at QB.)

Broaching the idea of Kaepernick returning, but not yet, helps blunt the inevitable outrage and spread it out over months rather than days.

Kaepernick stumbles

It’s happened before at many pro days: a prospect, burdened by nerves or absurdly high expectations, fumbles in the spotlight. The 40 time is too slow, the passes are offline, the strength and reflexes aren’t quite there. Even had he not missed the last 2+ seasons, Kaepernick would still be trending downward purely based on career arc.

Colin Kaepernick in his final NFL game to date. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick in his final NFL game to date. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Kaepernick performs well but teams avoid him anyway

This is where it gets tricky; what if Kaepernick turns in a performance that’s at least the quality of current backups, but no NFL team wants to take the chance of blowback?

That reopens the whole collusion possibility again, and that’s why the NFL is taking something of a risk here. If the league puts forth this effort — even if it’s a PR stunt — and Kaepernick holds up his end of the deal, it’ll be that much harder for the NFL to claim he’s not being blackballed if no team steps up.

Kaepernick bails on the workout

There’s always the chance that this slapdash effort — giving Kaepernick two hours to respond, scheduling a workout on a Saturday — will fall apart under the weight of objections or negotiations. The NFL is positioning this as an “at least we tried” effort; Kaepernick might decide that the league didn’t try hard enough.

Kaepernick draws the attention of the president … again

The entire protest drama of 2017 hit its stride when President Trump used Kaepernick’s activism as a cudgel to beat down the entire league. Times are different now — the league has recognized how much power it possesses, for starters — but Trump always has an eye out for polarizing, red-meat topics, and you don’t get much more red-meat than kneeling during the national anthem. If Kaepernick returns to the national stage, expect the president to weigh in.

Kaepernick latches on with a team, leads it to a playoff run, and ends up winning the Super Bowl

Sure. If you’ve got $100 to burn on Kaepernick becoming the 2019 version of Nick Foles, go ahead and lay it down. Who knows? You might just have a new house come February. But probably not.

We’ll all find out together soon enough.


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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