Rumor mill: Kaepernick to the Vikes?

The hopes of Vikings fans for a repeat of 2015’s NFC North championship took a huge hit yesterday after up-and-coming star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went out with a full ACL tear. With less than two weeks to go and no tested depth at the QB position, the Vikings may need to look around the league for a leader who fits into Bridgewater’s strength at scrambling, rushing, and field generalship. Why not look for a Super Bowl QB that’s riding the pine now? ESPN’s John Clayton ranks Colin Kaepernick #1 on Minnesota’s wish list:

With Bridgewater expected to miss the season, it’s going to be tough for the Vikings to get through a 16-game schedule with 36-year-old Shaun Hillat quarterback. The other two quarterbacks on their roster areTaylor Heinicke, who was an undrafted free agent in 2015, and Joel Stave, who went undrafted this year. They could also bring back Brad Sorensen, who was cut on Tuesday, but he isn’t an option to start.

Now the Vikings need to be aggressive in trying to find a replacement. They need to bring in someone who could challenge Hill and Heinicke. Here are the quarterbacks I think fit best.

Forget the controversy about the national anthem. Kaepernick has to be a consideration. San Francisco coach Chip Kelly hasn’t named a starter, but Blaine Gabbert appears to have the job, and I’m sure 49ers ownership wouldn’t mind unloading Kaepernick. Still, Kaepernick has talent and could be worked into a Norv Turner offense that features the run.

That might make for a higher-profile start than the Vikings front office envisioned for 2016. Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem has made him a hot commodity in the commentariat, but he hasn’t been much of a commodity on the field or on the trading market. His $61 million guarantee on his contract would be a huge hurdle, especially for the smaller-market Vikings, but that’s not the only problem with bringing in someone who could challenge for the starting job. The Vikings are high on Bridgewater and will want him back on the field as soon as he’s able to play, and having Kaepernick on the bench might create a big problem next season.

Of course, one has to view that in the context of the available choices. The next two most likely and probably available QBs would be Mark Sanchez, 36-year-old Michael Vick, and Geno Smith:

Maybe you’ve heard: The New York Jets have a surplus of quarterbacks. They’re willing to keep four on the 53-man roster — or so they say — but grizzled personnel types around the league aren’t buying that. They believe the Jets will jettison one of the players, which raises the question:

Could they trade Geno Smith to the Vikings?

Ostensibly, Smith is the Jets’ No. 2 quarterback, but I believe they’d be willing to listen if the Vikings — or any team, for that matter — show interest. Even though he’s their only backup with regular-season experience, Smith is viewed by some in the organization as a player who has maxed out his potential, whereas Bryce Petty is seen as a quarterback whose arrow is pointing up. Smith hasn’t played particularly well in limited reps (47 snaps in three games), which has disappointed some because they felt he’d be better in Year 2 in Chan Gailey’s system.

They’d have value as backups who won’t balk at going back to the bench, but … that’s about it. It’s not clear whether that would actually improve the Vikings over their current backup QBs enough to part with either more money or draft picks. Clayton’s correct that the timing might be right to bring in someone who could help the team win immediately, assuming the Vikes could take the cap hit and/or the 49ers indemnify them for a portion of Kaepernick’s contract.

That leaves the public-relations considerations. The Vikings will open their new, expensive, and publicly financed stadium this season, and they may need to minimize any issues that remind local voters that they’ve just subsidized a facility for multi-millionaire players and billionaire owners. Having a pampered athlete disrespect the flag on the field and brag about it later seems like the kind of thumb in the eye of fans that the Vikings would like to avoid, as I wrote in my column at The Week today:

This immediately put me in mind of an incident that has achieved legendary status among my family and friends. In the spring of 1982, more than five years before Kaepernick’s birth, my then-girlfriend and I invited our fathers to an Angels game so they could become acquainted. Before the game started, the young man in front of Dave, my girlfriend’s father, refused to stand for the national anthem. A Navy veteran, Dave poured his beer over the young man’s head and told him to have more respect. The police at the stadium thought it was pretty funny, and settled for separating our two groups for the rest of the night.

Now, that’s not an acceptable form of counter-protest, from a legal or a moral standpoint. Legally, that would be battery — beer battery, I suppose, but still a misdemeanor. And yet, when we told that story more out of a sense of chagrin, everyone who heard it had the same reaction, regardless of political orientation: I’d like to pay him for the beer. …

Kaepernick can protest in any legal form he desires as part of his First Amendment birthright, for any cause he so desires. But so can his critics, and all of the people he offended by his silly and insubstantial action. Guess what? That’s also free speech. Why should that also not get respect? It’s every bit an exercise of the First Amendment as Kaepernick’s words and actions. Free speech does not mean that complainers get a free pass from incurring criticism for their words and actions, nor does it indemnify protesters from the free-market consequences of alienating those who patronize their businesses.

Dave, who passed away several years ago but who still has a place in my heart, was one of those fans. Dave had worked hard to make a living and take care of his family most of his life. He didn’t have the gift of athletic talent to transform himself into a wealthy man, but he enjoyed the efforts of those who did. Sports was something we could share and enjoy together apart from all of the other debates in life.

Dave and I may not have seen entirely eye to eye on politics, but we both knew that love of country goes beyond that. He understood that America wasn’t perfect, but at least America tried. When Dave spent his limited cash and spare time on a ballgame, he didn’t do it to attend a protest; all he wanted was a moment of respect for the imperfect country he loved.

Here in Minnesota, and I suspect the rest of the country, the Daves outnumber the Colins. By a country mile. And I count myself firmly among the Daves.

Even so, as a football fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing Kaepernick starting for the Vikings. His protest was silly, insubstantial, and disrespectful, but that shouldn’t keep him from playing or teams from hiring him. Kaepernick has a right to peaceful and lawful protest, and the rest of us have the right to criticize and boo him if so desired. And right now, looking at their options, it might be better public relations for the Vikings to get a starting-caliber quarterback to feature in their expensive new boondoggle than it would be to stand on principle (or budget) and hand off the team to Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez. After living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I’m pretty sure Minnesotans will stand for the former a lot more than the latter in the long run.