In the wake of protests against police brutality rising up all over the country, and even across the world, the NFL joined the chorus of organizations issuing public statements about racism and social justice.
But the league’s initial statement left much to be desired by the players, and they responded with a strong statement of their own, a video response put together by the league’s own production team without the NFL’s knowledge of their involvement.
That led to a new and improved statement from the league, a video from commissioner Roger Goodell, posted Friday evening. Among other things, Goodell addresses the league’s failures in the way they responded to the players’ peaceful protests against police brutality and racism in recent years, a movement spearheaded by Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick’s peaceful protests were met with strong criticism by many back in 2016, and the backlash, both from fans and the league itself, would eventually lead to Kaepernick being out of the league after that season.
But now that the league appears to be reversing course with regards to the protests, will it open the door for Kaepernick’s return to the league?
Sure, he’s been out of the league for three years, but he’s still just 32 years old. During that 2016 season, Kaepernick threw 16 touchdown passes to just four interceptions in 12 games, adding 468 yards and a pair of scores on the ground. His unique skill set could be a valuable addition for many teams, at the game’s most important position.
If Kaepernick does make a return to the NFL, would the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be among the teams interested in signing him?
Tom Brady is obviously locked in as the team’s starter for at least the next two seasons, but there’s not much to be excited about behind him on Tampa Bay’s depth chart.
As fate would have it, the Bucs’ current backup to Brady is Blaine Gabbert, who battled with Kaepernick for the starting job with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. Gabbert initially won the job to start the year, as Kaepernick was coming off of multiple injuries and offseason surgeries. Kaepernick outplayed Gabbert that year, but would end up opting out of his contract at the end of the season.
Behind Gabbert, the Bucs have an inexperienced veteran in long-time preseason star Ryan Griffin, in addition to undrafted rookie free agent Reid Sinnett.
Gabbert’s familiarity with the offensive scheme run by Bucs head coach Bruce Arians is his strongest asset, but Kaepernick’s skill set would give Tampa Bay a versatile weapon who could allow them to get creative with various play packages in certain situations.
The largest obstacle to Kaepernick finding a home with the Bucs, or anywhere in the league for that matter, might be fears of backlash from a portion of the fan base. While many fans would be thrilled at the thought of Kaepernick returning to the league and playing for their favorite team, others might not be so accommodating. When Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans had his own peaceful protest back in 2016, many Tampa Bay fans responded in strong opposition, leading to an apology from Evans just days later.
While Brady is the clear-cut starter in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future, Kaepernick would be an intriguing addition to an already powerful Bucs offense. He would give their potent attack a weapon it doesn’t currently have, and would allow Brady to take a breather every now and then.