Are the Eagles the right team to facilitate Colin Kaepernick’s NFL return?

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Thursday, the Eagles made their highly-anticipated 2019 NFL preseason debut against the Tennessee Titans. As is often the case in preseason matchups, the health of the players takes precedence over the final score. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they weren’t able to completely dodge the injury bug.

Backup QB Nate Sudfeld landed awkwardly on his non-throwing hand after absorbing a big hit from a Titans defender and was later confirmed to have broken his left wrist.

This is incredibly tough news considering how thin the Eagles already were at quarterback prior to the injury to Sudfeld. The team is being cautious with their franchise signal-caller Carson Wentz, incumbent backup QB Cody Kessler is on the roster bubble, and third-string rookie QB Clayton Thorson has been– underwhelming, to say the least.

While the report suggests the Eagles aren’t bringing in an additional signal-caller just yet, it’s also important to note that this report came mere hours after Sudfeld was confirmed to have a broken wrist. I’m almost certain the Eagles are talking about bringing in veteran help internally and are just playing it close to the vest- keeping the media in the dark. If the Birds are indeed interested in adding another player to the quarterback room, their search could begin with none other than Colin Kaepernick.

This move, of course, would be (unfairly) scrutinized and highly debated, as Kaepernick has (unjustly) become a polarizing icon. I’m not going to get into the political side of the potential move, as that has already been discussed at length the last few years, but will weigh the on-field pros and cons of inking Kaep to a deal.

Case for Kaep

Aside from being a supremely talented football player, which I’ll get to in a second, the first thing that jumps out at me about Kaepernick is his physical likeness to Eagles star Carson Wentz.

Player Carson Wentz Colin Kaepernick
Height 6’5 6’4
Weight 237 235
40 time 4.77 sec 4.53 sec
Vertical 30.5 inch 32.5 inch
Hands 10 inch 9 inch

The two signal-callers are almost identical across the board physically and also share similar playing styles on the field- both of them being dual-threat quarterbacks with strong arms. Signing Kaep as the backup would not only give the Eagles an incredibly formidable fail-safe but would prevent them from having to deviate from their desired offensive scheme should Kaep be called into action.

Additionally, since taking the reins in Philly in 2016, Eagles HC Doug Pederson has been adamant about constantly rostering a developmental quarterback. Signing Kaepernick could aid that effort in two ways. Kaep could serve as the season-long backup behind Wentz, which would allow the 25-year old Nate Sudfeld to continue his role as the developmental quarterback on the roster. There’s no doubt that Sudfeld has come along way since arriving in Philly, but it’s fair to wonder if he is actually ready to step in relief duty should Wentz go down. Furthermore, the aforementioned Clayton Thorson seems to be a loooong ways away from being prepared for NFL action and could be stashed on the practice squad should the Eagles decide they want an extended look at him.

Alternatively, if the Eagles are confident that Sudfeld is the man for the backup job, Kaep himself could serve as a developmental project of sorts- one with an incredibly high, known ceiling. Having been (shamefully) blacklisted from the league the past few years, Kaepernick will need a bit of time to once again get acclimated to NFL speed, but once he does he would be a dynamite option for Doug Pederson to have in his back pocket.

Kaepernick currently holds the fourth-best career TD-INT ratio in NFL history(!) at 2.40. The only quarterbacks ahead of him? Future first-ballot HOFers Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady. Kaep also ranks in the top 20 all-time in career passing rating (88.9), ahead of Dan Marino, Cam Newton, and Brett Favre, amongst others.

The possibilities for him in Philly don’t end with being a top backup or high-upside project QB either. Pederson could opt to take a page out of his good friend and rival HC Sean Payton’s book and unleash Kaepernick in a Taysom Hill role. Kaepernick has the wheels and the passing abilities to thrive in such a role, but I think he’d be much better served playing a traditional role as a backup quarterback.

The former 49ers star just isn’t your prototypical free-agent signal-caller that teams sign to hold a clipboard and pray they never see the field. He is an elite NFL talent who has (wrongfully) been ruled out as an option for the majority, if not all of the league.

Case Against Kaep

Honestly, I can only think of two reasons the Eagles should be leery of a potential Kaepernick signing. I’ll start with the obvious, Kaepernick hasn’t played in three seasons, so it’s fair to wonder how long it will take him to get acclimated to NFL speed again. If his recent Twitter post is any indication, though, that may be sooner rather than later:

Secondly, his “feud” with Malcolm Jenkins over the settlement between the NFL and NFLPA ​could b​e somewhat of an issue, but I don’t view it as something that would derail the entire locker room. Jenkins and Kaepernick are both incredible, upstanding men with strong moral compasses so I’d expect them to resolve any issues rather quickly.

A return to the NFL for Kaep seems like a longshot at this point, but the Eagles would not only be a match made in Heaven for the talented signal-caller but also have a dire need for a capable backup in the wake of the Sudfeld injury. With a plethora of cap space to boot, Colin Kaepernick, in my opinion, is at least worth a flier for the Birds.

Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

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