Best fit for Colin Kaepernick: Broncos, Browns, or Jets?
Trade rumors are heating up for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a sign of desperation around the league, as well as intrigue in a reclamation project. Make no mistake, Kaepernick has regressed every year since breaking out with an impressive debut in 2012, so any team that takes him will be doing so with that risk/reward in mind. While I’m still of the mind that Kaepernick may be best-suited staying put in San Francisco and developing within new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, here’s a look at the three teams most interested in Kaepernick at this point, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Joining the defending Super Bowl champions is the best fit if Kaepernick leaves San Francisco, if for nothing else than just to play with one of the league’s best defenses, taking the pressure off him in the passing game. Kaepernick was at his best early in his career when the 49ers tapped into his running ability as a threat in the designed-run game, while working off play-action and creating easy intermediate and downfield throws. A return to that style is necessary to get him back on track; even if he’s not featured in the running game as heavily as he was before, his mobility will be an asset in head coach Gary Kubiak’s outside-zone scheme. A mobile quarterback helps to keep the defense honest in that system, and the heavy play-action approach will allow Kaepernick to hit the deep crossing routes that were his strength early in his career.
New York Jets
Similar to the situation in Denver, the Jets have a strong defense—and a defensive-minded head coach in Todd Bowles—but the real key piece may be offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey has a history of adjusting his system to mobile quarterbacks, and he may be just what Kaepernick needs to rejuvenate his career. Gailey will likely implement more pistol sets while using Kaepernick’s athleticism in the designed running game, turning back the clock on his early-career success. It will also open up the running game for the Jets, with an opportunity to build a team that can control the ball on the ground and allow Bowles’ defense to keep them in every game.
The last option is the Cleveland Browns, which certainly wouldn’t be as favorable of a situation from a talent standpoint, but it may be a good pairing with new head coach Hue Jackson. Jackson’s most recent project, Andy Dalton, is coming off his best season, as Jackson built the system around his skill-set. The issue with being traded to the Browns—when compared to the Broncos or Jets—is entering a rebuilding situation where another quarterback is likely to be drafted in the very near future, while the Broncos and Jets are capable of competing immediately with their respective defenses. So, while Kaepernick may benefit from Jackson’s tutelage, his future replacement is likely to be taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft.