Colin Kaepernick

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Mack, Broncos

The Raiders’ situation with Khalil Mack continues to feature no movement. There is no end in sight, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, adding the 2016 defensive player of the year will not report in time for Oakland’s second preseason game. Reggie McKenzie previously said he does not expect the superstar defensive end to show up without an extension, so this isn’t unexpected. Mack will incur a fine of $814K by not being with the Raiders for their second preseason tilt, bringing his fine total up to $1.628MM, per Schefter.

Jon Gruden, meanwhile, insists the Raiders are trying to bring Mack back as soon as possible and called the fifth-year Raider “the best player coming off the edge in football.”

We’re going to try to get him here as soon as we can,” Gruden said during a Sirius XM Radio interview (via NBC Sports Bay Area). “In the time being, you got to move on. You’ve got to get up and go to work. That’s one thing I’m very proud of what we’ve done here. This is a negotiation. Joel Segal is Khalil’s agent. They’ve got their plan. General manager Reggie McKenzie and the people negotiating on our end have a plan. I’m coaching the team. At this time, he’s not here, and we have to focus on what we can control, and that’s just working.”

Here’s the latest from the West divisions.

  • John Elway shot down a Colin Kaepernick route to Denver, indicating the former 49ers quarterback turned down an offer in 2016. (Although, Brock Osweiler also turned down a 2016 offer only to return a year later.) But the Broncos GM did not rule out bringing in another veteran backup, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Broncos demoted Paxton Lynch this week, and new second-stringer Chad Kelly has never thrown a regular-season pass. Matt Moore may be the top non-Kaepernick QB available.
  • The 2016 summit between Kaepernick, Elway, Gary Kubiak and Broncos exec Matt Russell at Elway’s house was a “positive meet and greet,” according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com. The Broncos liked Kaepernick coming out of Nevada in 2011, and after the 2016 meeting, Kaepernick believed he was en route to becoming Denver’s next starter. However, he balked at taking a pay cut (one that would have reduced his salary to $7MM). Citing the double-standard for Osweiler — whom Robinson believes stirred up some hard feelings among Broncos execs by spurning them for the Texans — receiving a second chance in Denver and Kaepernick not being considered, the NFL reporter points to this being another checkmark in the Kaepernick-being-blackballed column.
  • In his first 2019 mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has the Broncos selecting a cornerback in Round 1. Although All-Pro Chris Harris remains well-regarded as a Broncos cornerstone, Miller notes some in Denver’s front office aren’t sold on Bradley Roby as a long-term cog. Roby’s entering his contract year. Harris has two seasons left on his team-friendly deal. The Broncos selected Brendan Langley in the 2017 third round, but 2018 third-rounder Isaac Yiadom was the nickelback in Denver’s first preseason game in place of the injured Tramaine Brock.
  • Whatever the Rams end up paying Aaron Donald, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com feels that gives the Raiders a price point. But he expects a Mack extension to come in slightly below what Donald ends up earning. With edge rushers on average earning more than their inside counterparts, it remains to be seen if Mack would accept a deal that doesn’t make him the NFL’s highest-paid defender.

Broncos Won’t Consider Colin Kaepernick

The Broncos may be on the lookout for quarterback help, but they won’t be calling Colin Kaepernick. The polarizing athlete will not be in consideration for Denver, GM John Elway told reporters on Thursday (Twitter link via Lindsay Jones of USA Today). 

He had a chance to be here, he passed on it,” Elway said.

The Broncos and 49ers discussed a possible Kaepernick trade at length in 2016, but the deal was nixed when the QB refused to trim $5MM from his ’16 cap number and take additional pay cuts in future seasons. Kaepernick lost the camp competition to Blaine Gabbert, but regained his starting job in Week 6. After the Niners went 2-14 with Kaepernick starting for eleven of those games, the two sides parted ways in the offseason.

The Broncos, meanwhile, went 9-7 that year as they failed to land a quarterback who could fill Peyton Manning‘s shoes. It’s debatable as to whether they would have been better off with Kaepernick under center (Kaepernick personally largely played well that year), but what we do know is that he will not be joining the Broncos this year.

Denver is in a better place overall after signing Case Keenum, but there’s still much to be figured out when it comes to the backup quarterback situation. For now, former Mr. Irrelevant Chad Kelly is slated to be the team’s No. 2 QB with Paxton Lynch in line for the No. 3 job.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Salary Cap, Kaepernick, Texans, Watt, Eagles

The NFL salary cap is an extremely complex system to navigate. It’s unlike anything else in professional sports and it can cripple a franchise for years if it isn’t wise with its spending. Front offices have whole teams of executives who work to maneuver through cap issues.

It’s notoriously hard to construct a balanced roster while staying under the cap, so Bill Barnwell of ESPN took a stab at creating the perfect NFL roster while staying under the $177MM cap. He wisely went with quarterbacks still on their rookie deals, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, and had some other relative steals like David Johnson and Alvin Kamara. Overall, it’s a pretty fun read with an interesting set of rules, and definitely worth checking out.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The decision of whether or not to dismiss Colin Kaepernick‘s collusion claim against the NFL is currently being mulled over by an arbitrator, per ProFootballTalk.com. The NFL is hoping to avoid the case going to trial.
  • Texans defensive end J.J. Watt says there is “no doubt” he’ll be ready for Week 1, according to Herbie Teope of NFL.com. His return will be a huge boost to the Texans’ injury plagued defense. Over the last two seasons, Watt has appeared in just eight games.
  • Here’s a recent projection of the Eagles’ 53-man roster including a full breakdown of long-shots, bubble players, and potential trade candidates courtesy of Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com.

West Notes: Kaepernick, Cardinals, Raiders

Thursday will mark a pivotal moment in Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports writes. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank will meet with lawyers representing the NFL and the former 49ers quarterback to determine whether his case moves forward. If Burbank sides with Kaepernick, a hearing will take place and the QB’s team could press for even more discovery or depositions in an effort to prove its case.

Even if Kaepernick loses in this round, his legal team could still believe it has the necessary evidence to take President Donald Trump to federal court. That’s seen as a last-ditch effort for Kaep, so a victory on Thursday could lessen the chances of that battle taking place.

Here’s more from the West divisions:

  • Cardinals wide receiver Greg Little has a really good chance to make the roster, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Little, 29, has not seen the field since the 2014 season, but his route-running ability has impressed coaches thus far in camp. Little showed promise during his tenure with the Browns, including a 2011 rookie season in which he hauled in 61 receptions for 709 yards and two scores. Now that he’s healthy, Little believes that he can get back to his old form.
  • Raiders coach Jon Gruden has been critical of Martavis Bryant this offseason, but he impressed this week and had a particularly strong showing on Wednesday, as Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes. “Today was probably his best day,” wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “Obviously, he got more reps today because of his overall preparation. Again, he’s putting the time in and the work in, and then he’ll benefit like he’s doing right now. That’s the starting point. It always starts with the preparation. … He just needs now to be consistent and keep stacking success. “He had a good day today. Now we need to stack tomorrow and keep building on it, keep building on it.Regardless of Bryant’s performance or his understanding of the playbook, it would be a shocker if Bryant did not make the final cut.

NFL Seeking Summary Judgement In Colin Kaepernick Collusion Case

The NFL is asking arbitrator Stephen Burbank to issue a summary judgement in Colin Kaepernick‘s collusion lawsuit against the league, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Burbank’s next move will decide the future of the case: if he accepts the NFL’s request, the case will end, but if Burbank denies the league, Kaepernick’s grievance will move forward.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains, the NFL is hoping to force Kaepernick to “put his cards on the table.” Kaepernick and his legal team will need to prove they have enough evidence of collusion to continue the lawsuit, meaning the former 49ers quarterback will likely deploy any and all “smoking guns” he has on hand. If Kaepernick does so, the league will then have an idea of his team’s trial plan.

Burbank’s summary judgement will be the “most pivotal moment” in Kaepernick’s case, per Robinson, as the arbitrator’s decision will decide the future of the lawsuit. However, law requires all facts to be viewed “in the most favorable light” towards Kaepernick, according to Florio, meaning he shouldn’t have a tough time forcing the case to continue.

Kaepernick, of course, has not played in the NFL since 2016, as clubs have shunned the former 30-year-old following his national anthem demonstrations. While he was scheduled to work out for the Seahawks earlier this year, the audition was eventually canceled after Kaepernick declined to stop kneeling during the anthem.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp: 

Kaepernick probably stands as the most talented quarterback left on the open market, but his ongoing collusion case against the NFL complicated matters. It seems unlikely that he’ll land anywhere between now and the start of the season, but friend and former teammate Eric Reid probably has a better chance of signing somewhere, despite being in a similar boat. Recently, the duo was spotted working out together in California.

It seems like just yesterday that Murray was the league’s most fearsome running back. Unfortunately, Murray’s age has caught up to him to some extent and he was overshadowed last year in Tennessee by the younger Derrick HenryThe Titans dropped Murray in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Recently, the Saints tried to include Murray in their cattle call for running backs, but he declined the invite.

Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. It’s possible that Murray and Peterson won’t sign unless a running back injury opens up an opportunity for them. Teams could also steer clear of Peterson altogether given his desire for a starring role despite his lack of star performance over the last two years.

Bryant is the biggest name on this list, but we shouldn’t expect to see him sign anywhere until July. There have been conflicting reports on his market, but the latest word indicates that he is receiving interest, despite concerns about his demeanor in the locker room.

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Extra Points: XFL, Luck, Kaepernick

This week, Vince McMahon’s XFL appointed Oliver Luck as its new commissioner and CEO.

The XFL will be a labor of love as I get to combine my experiences as a player and executive,” Luck told ESPN.com in an email. “I’m thrilled to have this unique opportunity to reimagine the game that has been a constant in my life for 40 years.”

Luck, the father of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, will relocate to Connecticut as he gears up for the league’s launch in 2020. That also means leaving behind his previous job with the NCAA, in which he oversaw eligibility requirements and academic affairs.

I always felt there was an opportunity for another pro league as long as it had the key ingredients, and I found all those ingredients present in the new XFL,” Luck said. “There was the leadership and vision from Vince [McMahon] who is a tremendous entrepreneur with a solid track record and there is a potential to have good quality football if it is well capitalized, which of course it is.”

Here’s more from around the world of football:

This Date In Transactions History: Colin Kaepernick

In the 2014 offseason, quarterback Colin Kaepernick had been coming off back-to-back seasons in which he led the 49ers to the postseason. That also included a trip to Super Bowl XLVII when they 49ers lost to the Ravens.

It’s fair to see why the 49ers saw Kaepernick as their quarterback of the future and decided to ink him to a six-year contract extension worth up to $126MM in total, $54MM in potential guarantees and $13MM in full guarantees.

The now-30-year-old would not lead the 49ers to the postseason again following the extension and started all 16 regular season games just once before opting out of his contract following the 2016 season. The 49ers had taken Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Nevada.

Kaepernick has yet to suit up with an NFL team since appearing in 12 games and starting 11 with the 49ers in 2016. After Jim Tomsula took over for Jim Harbaugh as the 49ers’ head coach in 2015, Kaepernick was benched eight games into the season in favor of Blaine Gabbert.

Since his release and subsequent free agency, Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging that owners from around the league colluded to keep him unsigned. The reported collusion stems from his protest of social inequalities in the United States, which included kneeling for the national anthem.

Between the 2012 and ’13 seasons, Kaepernick threw for 21 touchdowns and rushed for nine touchdowns while throwing just 11 interceptions. The team also went 17-6 in the regular season with him as a starter. From 2014-16, Kaepernick was unable to lead the team to a record better than 8-8, including 10 interceptions in 2014 alone.

The 49ers have appeared to find another “quarterback of the future” after signing Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year deal worth up to $137.5MM deal, which was the largest annual salary in NFL history at the time. The $90MM guaranteed in the first three years of his deal still stands as an NFL record.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer: 

Of course, Kaepernick’s situation is more complicated than the rest. Lately, the only updates we’ve heard regarding Kaepernick have been tied to his pending collusion case against the NFL. Former teammate Reid is certainly closer to the NFL radar after an April meeting with the Bengals, but he also believes teams are shying away from him due to his participation in anthem protests. Reid filed a grievance of his own against the NFL in May and has been spotted working out with Kaepernick.

Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.

Bryant says he has no regrets about turning down a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, but right now it looks like he blew his opportunity at a solid free agent deal. Reportedly, many teams are unwilling to consider him for even the league minimum, so it seems unlikely that he’ll find the lucrative one-year contract he’s seeking. On the plus side, his former employer says multiple teams have checked in on him.

Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.

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NFC Notes: Bears, OBJ, Rodgers, Kaepernick

Bears wide receiver and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Whitecan’t be a lock to make the 53-man roster coming out of preseason,” according to the Chicago Tribune’s Bradd Biggs.

Briggs continues by saying, “White is guaranteed a little more than $2.69MM this season. While there is offset language in his contract, there’s no way another team would pay him that kind of money, so the Bears would be on the hook for at least a portion if they were to release him. It’s not enough money to say he’s locked into a spot.”

The sentiment is not a shocker. After the Bears overhauled their receiving corps with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and rookie pass catcher Anthony Miller, the injury-prone wideout will have to make an impact on the field to assure his roster spot.

The second receiver taken in 2015, behind Amari Cooper, White boasted an impressive combination of size, speed and strength that projected the West Virginia product to be Chicago’s future No. 1 receiver. Instead, he has been ravaged by injuries that have limited him to just five games in three seasons. He flashed signs of progress in 2016 with back-to-back six-catch games, but he immediately suffered a high ankle sprain that resulted in a fracture and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Briggs notes that he has made progress and all signs are pointing positive early at OTAs. “The coaches are saying the right things about him. They like the way he looks. They like his work ethic and approach.”

If White is able to produce at even a fraction of his potential in 2017, Mitch Trubisky will have plenty of weapons to operate with in his sophomore campaign.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Giants and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be nearing a contract showdown, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SportsNet New York. Once the Pro Bowl pass catcher is cleared to fully practice he could opt for a holdout since he has yet to publicly dismiss an earlier report that he “will not set foot on a field without a contract extension.” Though that option is not a certainty, Vacchiano notes Beckham’s leverage is rather strong, in that the Giants are in win-now mode with an aging quarterback who has struggled without his go-to receiver. Holdouts rarely go the way of the player, but we’ll see if Beckham tries to buck the trend.
  • When the Packers sit down at the negotiating table with Aaron Rodgers on an extension, one thing the quarterback will be looking for is a possible out on his deal, reports NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link). “Another aspect that I’m told is extremely important to [Rodgers] is player control — How much control can he have on his future,” Garafolo said. The All-Pro quarterback will almost assuredly become the highest-paid player in the league when he signs a deal, which seems like a slam dunk at this point, but his ability to have an out in the deal is one thing to keep an eye on. 
  • The attorney for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid, Mark Geragos, told reporters, “I would stay tuned because this case is about to take a dramatic turn.” Asked about the claim, Geragos added, “somebody has decided they were to dime out the NFL for what they were doing.” This implies there being a witness who can contradict the NFL’s stance that each team decided neither player can help their roster. There is sure to be more to develop in this case in the coming days.