Best fit for Colin Kaepernick: Broncos, Browns, or Jets?

With interest in 49ers QB rising, Steve Palazzolo takes a look at Kaep's most-likely trade destinations.

| 8 months ago
(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

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.

Denver Broncos

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.

Cleveland Browns

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.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • crosseyedlemon

    3 bad options in my opinion. In Denver he would have to try to replace a legend so that is a no win situation from the get go. With the Jets he would have to deal with the most unforgiving media in the league and finally the Browns are the Browns so unless your a masochist you don’t want to waste away there.

    • Moralltach

      He’s replacing a legend, yes, but a legend who had a REALLY bad year. If the Broncos have a middle-of-the-pack passing game and a top-10 defense, they’ll be a playoff threat again.

      • Tim Edell

        If they lose CJ Anderson as well they better have a top 3 defense to be a playoff team not top 10.

        • Mike Deverich

          Running backs are like leased cars get a new one every 3 years. CJ is an outstanding back but he’s battled the injury bug in ’14 and ’15. He never was the starting RB going into a season.

    • Marvin H

      Replacing a legend doesn’t really apply. As much as Denver fans like Manning, he was never “their” QB. It’s not going to be like it was when Griese had to replace Elway. Most Bronco fans know that Manning was a Colt and a hired gun, and while they love him for the few good years he had in Denver, they’re more than happy to see him leave.

      Kapernick would be a huge improvement over both the QB’s Denver lost in FA this year. And with that defense coming back basically untouched, that’s a scary thought for other teams.

      • James Brinson

        LOL Denver just lost 2 of their best defenders btw

        • Marvin H

          They lost their second best ILB and their 4th best pass rusher. Both are easily replaceable. Don’t exaggerate.

  • MosesZD

    You realize that you’re, in fact, wrong about 2013. In 2013 Kaepernick’s QB rating from the pocket was 80.3, which includes all that play-action passing, etc.

    However, what the pocket-rating, and his whole ‘future HOFer rating,’ doesn’t include was his street-ball, run-around 5+ seconds QBing which was: 69% completions, 8.86 yards per attempt, 12 TDs 1 INTs and a 131.9 passer rating.

    The vast majority of this came on his abandoning the pocket due to poor containment by the defense. A small amount was designed.

    In short, it was really not sustainable as the NFL worked hard to take that away from him. In 2014, you saw Kaepernick’s game go due South and in the second half of the season his QB rating hovered around 77. Teams had him figured out, they shut down the roll-outs, the street ball, etc., and he was forced to be what he can’t do — pocket passing.

  • Greg Knott

    What’s the PFF opinion on the Broncos using the draft pick they’d have to trade away for Kaepernick on other needs and bringing in Tebow. Does Tebow’s PFF grade when he was with Broncos compare favorably to Manning’s PFF grade with Broncos last year? See story:

  • Matt

    Best fit for Kaepernick is a spot on the bench. Hes not a quality starter whos going to win you a lot of games by him self. He needs a elite defense to carry him and needs to be on a run first team or his weaknesses become glaring.