John Elway claims Kaepernick had an NFL contract offer but turned it down

After all the sturm und drang gripping the nation over why Colin Kaepernick still hasn’t been given a starting QB position in the NFL and whether or not it was some sort of racist conspiracy, I was rather surprised to see this headline over at Bleacher Report. According to Broncos General Manager John Elway, Kaepernick actually had an offer for a quarterback job in hand but he turned it down. Of course, digging into the details of the story, it’s not as much of a game-changer as you might imagine.

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway said Thursday that free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick had an opportunity to sign with the team.

According to NFL Network’s James Palmer, Elway said, “Colin had his chance to be here. We offered him a contract.”

In 2016, Elway told reporters that the Broncos had made an offer to Kaepernick. According to CSN Bay Area’s Mindi Bach, the contract would have paid Kaepernick $7 million per season over two seasons.

Since parting ways with the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2016 season, Kaepernick has gone unsigned.

So Kaepernick could have been playing all this time if he’d really wanted to… or could he? Elway is talking about the second half of the 2016 season when Kaepernick still had a job and, perhaps even more importantly, hadn’t started his sideline National Anthem protests yet. He was still with the 49ers at that point, though doubtless knew he was going to be exploring the free agency market after that season. At that point, his QB rating had bounced back up to a respectable 90.7 after a couple of very mediocre seasons and, while certainly not the hottest passer in the league, was probably still viewed as a marketable commodity.

At that point in time, there’s a decent chance that Kaepernick (and/or his agent) felt that he could land a better deal than the seven million per year that the Broncos were offering him. Any such offers evaporated after he finished the season by attracting all of that negative attention, however. As we’ve discussed here repeatedly, Colin Kaepernick was a good NFL quarterback on his better days, but not the kind of person who looked like a sure playoff contender at that point in his career. And the simple math of NFL ownership dictates that the amount of crap and negative PR the team is willing to put up with from you is directly proportional to the likelihood that you’re going to put the Lombardi Trophy in their hands.

So I suppose Elway is correct in the most technical of terms and absent any context. It’s true that he could have gone to the Broncos after leaving San Francisco but he chose to turn them down. But would they have kept him if he continued demonstrating and didn’t jack his numbers back up to peak levels? We’ll never know to a certainty, but I’d say it was hardly a sure thing.

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David Strom 4:31 PM on November 25, 2022