Before he comes to Hamilton, someone should probably tell Colin Kaepernick that his usual No. 7 is already taken.
The free agent NFL quarterback has been added to the Tiger-Cats negotiation list, giving the Ticats ownership of his CFL rights. The team has also added former Washington Redskin and Cleveland Brown Robert Griffin III, known more colloquially as RG3 (while John Chick has No. 7, Griffin’s No. 10 has been retired.)
Adding high profile NFL veterans to CFL neg lists is an unusual move at the best of times and the inclusion of players the stature of Kaepernick and Griffin is almost unheard of. And while it remains highly unlikely that either guy will ever suit up for the Black and Gold, there are a couple of plausible explanations as to why the Ticats have done this.
Both players find themselves at something of career crossroads. The 29-year Kaepernick has been on a downward trajectory since leading the San Francisco 49ers to the NFL title game in 2012 and lost his starting job late last season. His decision to kneel for the national anthem during last summer’s run of police violence against African Americans evoked both praise and harsh criticism and his continued free agency was addressed by U.S. president Donald Trump this week.
“It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump,” he said. “Do you believe that?”
Meanwhile, Griffin III has endured a series of injury-plagued seasons after winning the NFL Rookie-of-the –Year award in 2012. He missed the entire 2015 season, then injured his shoulder in his first game for the Browns in 2016. The team released him earlier this month.
The CFL is filled with American players who, for one reason or another, have washed out of the NFL and come to Canada in order to get their game (and sometimes their lives) back on track. Kaepernick, who has said he plans to end his protest this season, wouldn’t have to worry about kneeling for an anthem that won’t be played and RG3, still just 27, needs to show he can stay healthy for an extended stretch.
Conventional wisdom has always said players the stature of Kaepernick and Griffin would never consider the CFL because, well, they are already rich. And that’s true: Kaepernick has made more than $43 million thus far in his six-year career, RG3 $28 million.
But the decision by former NFL pivot Vince Young to join the Saskatchewan Roughriders earlier this month may have changed the equation to some degree. Young’s financial situation is different – he declared bankruptcy in 2012 – but he cited a desire to continue playing football as his primary motivation.
From the Ticats perspective, Kaepernick or Griffin could potentially serve as insurance for Zach Collaros, who has yet to play an injury-free season in Hamilton. Unlike the Riders, the Ticats don’t want a competition for the starting job given the salary cap implications but the opportunity to play right away could be enticing for both team and player.
If either Kaepernick or Griffin III express a legitimate interest in coming north – and even if they don’t – the Ticats still have the option of trading their rights to another CFL team. Both Montreal and Toronto are starting aging, injury-prone veterans with no real succession plan in place and the Riders have just proven that teams will try just about anything to solve a perceived issue at quarterback. If nothing else, the Ticats own their rights and the other eight teams don’t.
Or it could just be a publicity stunt. The Riders certain got plenty of ink for adding Young and the league is attempting to generate interest in its brand new CFL Week: tongues do have a tendency to wag over NFL stars (just ask Johnny Manziel.) The Ticats, it should be said, aren’t typically prone to shameless acts of self-promotion.
Again, the likelihood of Kaepernick or Griffin ever playing in Hamilton is extremely slim. But Kaepernick did wear No. 10 in college…. nevermind that’s taken too.