The end of the greatest dynasty in NFL history has arrived.
Tom Brady said Tuesday morning he is ready for his next chapter and will not re-sign with the New England Patriots, a franchise he led to nine Super Bowls, including a record six victories.
The list of potential Brady replacements in New England is exhaustive: Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Nick Foles and Taysom Hill among others. The Patriots could use some draft capital to move up and select somebody like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert or Jordan Love. But with Bill Belichick aging, the Patriots appear more in win-now mode than develop-a-rookie-quarterback mode.
Each of the above options have flaws.
Rivers seems poised to sign with the Colts (and was bad last season playing at age 38); Newton is coming off a major injury; Winston threw 30 interceptions in 2019; Bridgewater hasn't been a full-time starter since 2015; Carr seems unlikely to be traded unless the Raiders sign Brady; Foles was benched last season in favor of Gardner Minshew; and Hill has thrown all of 13 NFL passes.
Enter Colin Kaepernick, who certainly has his only flaws, the largest being he hasn't played in the NFL since 2016. Nobody has any idea what Kaepernick, the former Nevada Wolf Pack star, would look like after three seasons not playing football. But if the Patriots are looking for a high-upside player who fits the modern NFL, Kaepernick's ceiling is higher than anybody listed above with the exception of Newton and Bridgewater (and now Bridgewater is off the board). You could argue Winston, too, but the dude threw as many interceptions in 2019 (30 in 16 games) as Kaepernick did in his six NFL seasons combined (30 in 69 games). It's easy to forget Kaepernick is only 32 and in his physical prime.
Obviously, the Patriots signing Kaepernick is unlikely and Belichick and the ownership group led by Robert Kraft would have to be OK with Kaepernick's social justice movement. That seems unlikely considering Kraft is publicly friends with President Trump and Kaepernick is ... let's just say, not publicly friends with President Trump. Boston isn't known as the most hospitable place for vocal African-American athletes. These issues will probably blow up any possibility of this happening.
But Kaepernick would come cheaply given his talent level and résumé in the NFL, including leading a team to two NFC title games and within one play of winning the Super Bowl. The league has evolved to the point Kaepernick's dual-threat skill set matches what the most successful teams in the league are doing and the Patriots have a creative offensive coordinator (Josh McDaniels) who worked with a mobile and non-prototypical quarterback (Tim Tebow) when he was the Denver Broncos' head coach. With a strong returning defense (not to mention the best coach in NFL history), New England seems set up to continue being a strong contender in the post-Brady era.
The Patriots were among the teams that planned to attend Kaepernick's private NFL workout last season before that turned into a disaster, so there seems to be at least some interest there. Kaepernick played the Patriots twice in his career, leading a 41-34 win over New England in December 2012 in which he threw for a career-high four touchdowns. In his final season in the NFL, Kaepernick played solidly in a 30-17 loss to New England (he threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers). The last time Kaepernick played in the NFL, he had one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios in the NFL and ranked 17th in the league in quarterback rating, doing so with a horrible supporting cast.
Who knows what Belichick thinks of Kaepernick, but this is the coach who signed Tebow when he was a media magnet. He doesn't mind coloring outside the lines. Whoever replaces Brady must be mentally tough as he will literally be replacing the greatest player in NFL history with huge expectations around him. Given all he's been through the last four years, Kaepernick has the mental toughness for that job. Why not sign Kaepernick at a bargain price and draft your quarterback of the future in the first round in case that doesn't work out?
The Patriots have a few options as it heads into the post-Brady era, but would you rather have Dalton or Kaepernick quarterbacking your team in 2020? I know my answer.