If you’ve been watching your nearest sports ticker you most likely noticed that both Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have been added to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats negotiation list.
The news elicited excitement among CFL fans — but not so fast, my friends. The move is more an indication of the players’ NFL opportunities than their CFL ones.
The vast majority of players put on a negotiation list never actually have contact with their would-be Canadian teams — never mind agree to terms and then make the roster. Tim Tebow made news when Jim Popp put him on the Montreal Alouettes list, but it was just a footnote when he was taken off.
Law of averages says both Kaepernick and Griffin will follow a similar path.
That hasn’t stopped Hamilton from trying, however. Under the leadership of Eric Tillman and Kent Austin, the team is developing a track record of getting in line for potential marquee QBs and already counts Johnny Manziel on the neg list.
What’s more, a closer look at those players shows this is no random endeavour. Kaepernick, Griffin and Manziel all profile best in read-option systems. All three were prolific passers in college. And all three are not comfortable playing under centre but are adept at playing in the shotgun or pistol.
In layman’s terms, their mobility makes them perfect for the Canadian game, and the average CFL offence would highlight their strengths — not accentuate their weaknesses.
That said, although Kaepernick and Griffin III could be great CFL players, chances are we’ll never see it come to fruition. As of writing this it would not be a mutually beneficial equation — there is little to no upside for the players in question.
For starters, both have lucrative endorsement deals contingent on them plying their trade in the NFL. Both will be motivated to wait things out and see if a team gets desperate because of injury or under-performance and gives them a call rather than be bound to a CFL contract.
What’s more, if an NFL team doesn’t take a chance on Kaepernick, he could do a speaking tour or write a book about his recent experiences and make more money than Hamilton could afford to pay him for a season’s work.
The lack of motivation isn’t just fiscal. It is logical.
There is nothing the Kaepernick or Griffin can do in the CFL to prove they can be a fit for an NFL team. This is not the equivalent of Doug Flutie or Warren Moon proving they can play the quarterback position as a pro — Kaepernick and RG3 have both already proven that.
Griffin was rookie of the year in 2012. Kapernick started in the Super Bowl in 2013. Both started for the majority of their teams’ games last year.
The question is are they still starter-capable players and, if so, is their baggage worth acquiring along with their skills?
With Griffin, that baggage includes a perceived self-promotional attitude and an inability to stay healthy. And with Kaepernick, it’s the attention his protest actions bring and questions about whether he can be accurate from the pocket.
Becoming a CFL all-star this year or next won’t do much to erase those questions.
(And before you run to the comments section below, yes, I know Vince Young decided to play in Saskatchewan. He’s also 34 and hasn’t played a meaningful NFL down in six years. Kaepernick is 29. Griffin is 27.)
Another thing to remember: Free agency opened just two weeks ago. Rosters are far from set and we haven’t even had the draft yet. If we are having this conversation in August and missing training camp for either is a possibility then the tenor of the conversation changes slightly, but not by much.
Right now the first and more logical step for each would be to welcome a role as an NFL backup and see where the chips fall.
For Kaepernick especially that call may never come as there is legitimate talk that he could be blackballed, which I feared would happen at the outset of free agency.
Spike Lee is already sounding the alarm.
And yesterday Donald Trump weighed in at a campaign rally in Kentucky, passing on an idea that NFL teams didn’t want to sign Kaepernick in an effort to avoid the U.S. president’s Twitter wrath.
But even the hottest of takes need time to simmer, and there’s still a lot of time for a Kaepernick market to develop. Adrian Peterson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and he has yet to sign an NFL contract this off-season. It is still early.
From Hamilton’s perspective, the moves add up to a large Zach Collaros insurance policy. Collaros signed a three-year contract extension in June. When healthy he is 1A or 1B in the conversation for the best quarterback in the league along with Bo Levi Mitchell.
However, he won’t last forever and may not even last long. He has struggled with a variety of injuries in recent years and started only 10 games last season.
Hamilton is simply doing the due diligence in adding intriguing players to their neg list. But that move is one with the potential future in mind — not the present.
What it signals most is that both players’ NFL futures are presently uncertain. Not that they’ll realize their CFL potential any time soon, if at all.