What Would Colin Kaepnernick's NFL Return Mean?

Colin Kaepernick NFL Workout
Colin Kaepernick NFL Workout / Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After NFL commissioner Roger Goodell publicly apologized for not listening to his league's players when they protested racial injustice in this country, a door has swung open. Goodell all but gave players the green light to kneel during the national anthem during his statement, leading many to wonder if a team would finally give Colin Kaepernick a chance to prove himself.

The Big Lead's editorial team decided to discuss our thoughts on what a Kaepernick return would mean and whether or not we think it could actually happen.

Phillips: If Kaepernick ever signed with an NFL team again, it would be huge for the league. It would be an admission of past wrongs and whichever team that did it would (rightly) deserve a ton of credit. Kaepernick was the league's Public Enemy No. 1 for years, so even if the relationship thaws a bit with Goodell's words, it's going to take a lot more to make it comfortable. And some would inevitably see a Kaepernick signing as nothing more than a PR move.

Goodell's statement was a good start, but those words need to be backed up with actions. Sadly it's still hard for me to see any team bringing Kaepernick in right now. It's not clear he's off the NFL's sh*t list. I'd love for him to get a chance just so we could finally end the debate on whether or not he still has the ability to play in the league. I mean, the fact that Mike Glennon, Blaine Gabbert, and others continue to get jobs but a multi-faceted athlete like Kaepernick has been on the shelf for three years is asinine.

There is a chance an outside-the-box organization like the Seattle Seahawks could unilaterally make a move like that. Or a reunion with the San Francisco 49ers could make sense, especially after how supportive Kyle Shanahan has been publicly. But other than that, it's difficult for me to see any owners stepping up and making the move on their own.

Douglas: It would be important and quite simply, good. It would be an actual act by the NFL and a finger in the eye of anyone who ever argued that Kaepernick wasn't in the league because he wasn't good enough. The truth is, he's better than the majority of people earning paychecks who takig up spots on QB depth charts across America. It was just an argument used by people trying to cover for the NFL.

If a team does sign him - and someone better - it will be immediately billed as a "P.R. stunt" and a sacrifice of a roster spot to the WOKE-ness of the failing NFL. But there must be a few coaches and general managers who see a starter-level quarterback available for cheap. With the news cycle we're currently living in, he couldn't possibly be a distraction for long. Especially when half the league kneels on the first football Sunday of the fall - whenever that is. Maybe worry about the NFL actually kicking off before you worry about how that affects the ratings. Or what it says about the people who can't watch their favorite game because a guy kneeled.

He's no longer the only high profile player speaking up. Police murdering black civilians is officially a societal problem that we are going to deal with. If that makes you uncomfortable on Sundays, good.

Koster: The best way to answer this is to point out that Kaepernick doesn't need the NFL anymore. He's already won. It took four years and came at great personal cost but the spark he lit has caught on fire and spread throughout the league. Thinking people now understand that it's not about kneeling in front of the flag, it's about police officers kneeling on necks.

At this point it'd be hard to see offering a quarterback position as anything other than a hollow gesture to save face. And while that may very well be the case, the positive aspects of Kaepernick joining a team -- as long as that's what he really wants to do -- far outweigh the negative. There's something to be said about working inside the system after working from outside it for so long. There's also the non-trivial symbolism of those hero shots on the sideline. People can see that there was some reconciliation.

Global-brained: the gesture wouldn't absolve the NFL at all but instead highlight the important difference between words and actions. Kaepernick would certainly not be the only player kneeling or speaking up. He'd be among a crowd of Kaepernicks. So while his presence could be a good thing, it's not a giant game-changer.

McKeone: I find this tough to answer. It is going to be difficult for most teams to bring Kaepernick onto their roster without getting labeled as opportunistic and wanting to garner goodwill by capitalizing on a movement that means far more than how the general population sees a football team. This team could say all the right things about bringing on Kaepernick only for his football skills and give him a fair shot at the starting job, but if Week 1 rolls around and he isn't on the field for the first snap, many will see that as an affirmation that the team signed him did so with no intention of actually letting him play. It will be impossible for them to prove otherwise unless he does start, and I don't imagine the team or Kaepernick would want to gift him the starting job -- especially since it does remain well within the realm of possibility that after four years off, Kaepernick may not be starting-caliber anymore. Or, at least, not right away.

But, as pointed out by my coworkers, the positives outweigh the negatives. Somebody giving Kaepernick a job in any capacity is the closest thing he or anyone else will get to acknowledgement that his unemployment over the last few years had nothing to do with his play and everything to do with what he did during the national anthem. It would prove to Kaepernick's teammates that their bosses won't ostracize them because of the "distraction" social activism brings. Perhaps most importantly, it would prove to the countless fans who blasted Kaepernick that what he knelt for isn't going away, and if they don't like seeing it on TV every Sunday, that's too bad. The sight of Kaepernick in a professional uniform again, a silent nod to the obvious blackballing that went on and unspoken recognition that it was wrong, is worth any accusations of disingenuous intentions.

Giuffra: At this point, I think the question is, would Colin Kaepernick ever want to return to the NFL again?

From a purely football standpoint, he wasn't the same quarterback in years 5-6 as he was in years 2-4. Defenses caught up to what he was doing and were able to stifle him. It's been four years since he last started in the NFL and it would take some serious hard work and time to get back to what he was when he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012. Plus, is he OK being a backup to start? As Cam Newton knows, no team is just handing out starting jobs right now.

That brings us to the prestige side of things. What does Kaepernick gain from coming back to the NFL? He's already the leader of a movement that forced one of the biggest corporations in the United States to admit it was wrong. He will go down as a leader who scarified his own career for a cause that, at the time, was being ignored. Perhaps coming back gives him a sense of satisfaction, but being a martyr is more powerful long-term.

For the NFL, it would be good PR to get Kaepernick back on the field taking a knee during the national anthem. They show how much they've changed and remind the world of their connection to a leader of a worthy movement. But would Kaepernick want to give them that satisfaction? If I were him, I wouldn't. So really, the question to me is would he even consider it at this point.