It was inevitable that as soon as the feckless empty suit who gets paid $40 million a year just to not screw up a league he is simply incapable of not screwing up did a total 180 on the issue of National Anthem protests, that we'd be having this conversation.
The moment Roger Goodell decided to once again lead from the back and say he'd really love to see a team sign Colin Kaepernick - a guy Ginger Satan has wanted less than zero part of since San Francisco released him in 2016 - in order to make the league he runs (badly) seem super progressive and all about those causes the kids are into nowadays, it was only a matter of time. Sooner or later, people would revert to the factory setting they go to whenever a controversial NFL player might be looking for a home. They'd be saying he should sign with New England.
The examples are too numerous to list. But players that are polarizing for whatever reason are always, inevitably linked to the Patriots. Guys whose reasons for being considered "distractions" for reasons as diverse as Tim Tebow and post-OUI Michael Floyd. From grand slams like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss to called third strikes like Albert Haynesworth and Antonio Brown. Michael Sam was never good enough to take up an NFL roster spot, but that didn't stop people from suggesting Bill Belichick should give him one to serve some greater good.
And so now it's Colin Kaepernick. As a matter of fact, some of this talk started before Goodell yoga'ed himself into a logical pretzel trying to make it sound like he's been taking that knee with his guy Kaep all along. It's come from lesser princes of defunct political royal families:
Boston news outlets with a history of bad-mouthing the organization:
And no less an authority than Rob Ninkovich:
“Bill Belichick is able to take the whole team, you come together, you have a team meeting, he explains everything to you and everyone just goes on as regular business,” said Ninkovich on “Get Up!” Monday. “Every single day, you come in, you work on your craft and you try to be better individually as a player and try to come together as a team. I think Bill Belichick is if not the best, one of the best to ever bring a team together no matter who’s on the roster, no matter what they have at his disposal. He’s able to bring guys together from all over different parts. So I think that Kaepernick in a Patriots locker room would not be a distraction.”
I couldn't agree more. And not just because Ninkovich and I are best pals in the world ever since that one time I interviewed him five years ago:
… but because he speaks the truth. Belichick's locker room could handle having Kapernick in it. He could use his deflector shields to bounce the "distraction" of having Kaepernick around harmlessly out into space like he did with Tebow. That armada of TV news trucks that followed God's Other Son everywhere he went in his career lasted one day in Foxboro before all the journos realized they had met their match and the coach was going to give them nothing. He could easily do the same here. And if he thought Kaepernick would make his team more competitive, he'd sign him. Consequences and controversy be damned.
But there's a galaxy of different between could and should. And anyone who thinks this coach is going to base this decision on anything other than … say it with me now … what's in the best interest of the football team, has been doing something for the past two decades other than paying attention.
Like I've been chronicling here the past couple of weeks, the Patriots organization has been encouraging their players to speak their minds. It's supported their efforts. Brought a guest speaker from the ACLU to hold an hour long team meeting, and not for the first time. This after years of donating time and money to causes and assisting players in to do charitable works. But don't for one hot second think that extends to building the roster.
The notion that they'd sign a guy and cut another just to do a solid for Roger Goodell after all he's done for them is pure lunacy. It's delusional. Even it's the third quarterback spot. Or the 53rd man on the roster. Whoever that final depth guy is, he's someone who can potentially be the one responsible for putting Belichick on the podium with Ginger Satan while covered in red, white and blue confetti. Or have we forgotten about Malcolm Butler already.
Besides, if quarterback depth was really an issue they felt the need to address, there is a better, more practical option still available in Cam Newton, who has the decided advantage of having actually taken snaps in the last, oh, three seasons. The reason the Pats haven't signed him is this franchise is ready to move onto the QB they drafted for this very reason. This guy:
But just to get really practical, since this is by far the least sexy reason they can't sign Kaepernick, they simply can't afford him. As of right now, according to the people who count the NFL beans, New England has $1.85 million in cap space for 2020. That's the lowest in the league. If you say a 32-year-old veteran of six seasons who's making tens of millions to promote Nike would get out of bed for that kind of money just to hold a Microsoft tablet in order to help Goodell solve a PR problem, you're lying to us and probably yourself. And you need to tell us how many veterans you think they'd be willing to release in order to free up the money Kaepernick would expect.
So the fact that signing Kaepernick would only work as a socio/political move and makes no sense from a football, roster-building, competitive, championship-driven or financial perspective, it's fine. Kaepernick might sign with someone. But for all the boring, sensible reasons that win championships, it can't be New England.