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Kaepernick is unemployed. Is it because of his arm, or his knee?

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears. Spike Lee said on Instagram Sunday, March 19, 2017, that it was "fishy" that Kaepernick, now a free agent, hadn't been signed." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) PAPM107

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears. Spike Lee said on Instagram Sunday, March 19, 2017, that it was "fishy" that Kaepernick, now a free agent, hadn't been signed." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) PAPM107

Mark Sanchez found a job. Mike Glennon found a job. So did Josh McCown and Brock Osweiler and E.J. Manuel.

But Colin Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl just four years ago, remains unemployed.

Is Kaepernick not qualified to play quarterback in the NFL anymore? Or is it something else?

Some skeptical fans are wondering if the quarterbacks who have landed jobs with teams have one significant asset that Kaepernick does not have: They all stood for the national anthem last season. Kaepernick knelt in protest against racism and police brutality. That decision was unpopular with a segment of NFL fans, and perhaps a larger segment of traditionally conservative NFL owners. It even drew a rebuke from Donald Trump when he was a presidential candidate and later as president.

Similar vexing questions were raised a few years ago when Michael Sam, an all-American linebacker in college, was all but ignored by NFL teams after he publicly came out as gay. He was never regarded as a potential star, but many fans found it curious that such a successful college player could not play a down in the NFL.

Joe Thomas, a tackle for the Cleveland Browns, believes that teams just don't want to deal with the potential distraction of having Kaepernick on their roster.

"Teams don't currently view him as a starting QB, and NFL teams accept ZERO distractions from their backup QB," Thomas said on Twitter.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said on ESPN that he was "sure" that Kaepernick was being blackballed.

Kaepernick has continued to write about social issues on Twitter in recent days but has been mostly silent about his job search. Spike Lee, the filmmaker and sports fan, called Kaepernick's non-signing "mad fishy."

But the 49ers were terrible last season, and Kaepernick has not matched the numbers he put up in the early part of his career. Could his unemployment be based more on his ability than his politics?

A good catchall statistic to evaluate quarterbacks is adjusted yards per pass, which rates passing ability while factoring in touchdowns and interceptions. Last season, the Super Bowl quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, led the league at 10.1 and 9.3. Anything higher than 8 is very good; most solid quarterbacks land somewhere in the 7s.

Kaepernick took over the Niners' starting job when Alex Smith suffered a concussion in 2012 and put up a figure of 8.6, the best in league, before his trip to the Super Bowl. He made the playoffs again the next season at 7.8.

But his numbers then took a downturn. In 2014, he posted a 6.9, and the Niners were 8-8. He was benched the next season but regained his starting job last year. Unfortunately, the Niners had become terrible in the interim, and Kaepernick was 1-10. Still, his adjusted yards per pass was a respectable 7.2.

In the offseason, Kaepernick opted out of his contract, hoping for a better situation. So far, that situation has not arrived.

Looking at the other players who found spots, Sanchez has never exceeded 7.1 in adjusted yards per pass in his career and has been mostly in the 5s. Glennon, also signed by the Chicago Bears, has a lifetime figure of 6.4, and McCown, signed by the New York Jets, is at 6.0. Manuel, now with the Oakland Raiders, regularly puts up 5s and 6s.

It's not as if most of these players have huge upsides. Kaepernick is 29, but Sanchez is 30 and McCown is 37.

The 49ers will try 31-year-old Brian Hoyer, who had a decent year with the Bears, to replace Kaepernick, with Matt Barkley (career adjusted yards per attempt 4.7) as backup.

The website Spotrac, which evaluates sports contracts, sees Kaepernick as still having significant value.

First, it compares him to four similar players who signed contracts at about Kaepernick's age: Osweiler, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles and Robert Griffin III. It then assesses his statistics and finds that his numbers are 11 percent to 14 percent better than that group's, particularly his very low interception rate, just 0.4 per game. That leads Spotrac to estimate his value as $14 million a year.

The $14 million may or may not be forthcoming. And Kaepernick's knee, not his arm, may be the deciding factor.

Kaepernick is unemployed. Is it because of his arm, or his knee? 03/28/17 [Last modified: Monday, March 27, 2017 9:35pm]
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