CLEVELAND — Could the Cleveland Browns consider signing Colin Kaepernick? Considering the developments of this past week, it's a question worth asking.
With the NFL appealing Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension to a league-appointed designee, it appears likely that the Browns quarterback will see his suspension extended in the coming days.
As a result, it might not be a surprise to see the Browns consider their options at the quarterback position, especially with the league reportedly seeking an indefinite suspension of no less than a year.
With the start of the regular season nearly a month away, Cleveland's alternatives are limited -- but that's not to say that other options don't exist. With that in mind, here's a look at how the Browns could potentially approach replacing Watson, should the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback see his six-game suspension extended.
While Cleveland signing Kaepernick -- who hasn't played in the NFL since 2016 -- is hardly a likely outcome, it's one worth considering. After all, the former San Francisco 49ers star's dual-threat playing style is similar to Watson's, which could allow Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski to make minimal adjustments to his offense.
Earlier this offseason, Kaepernick went through a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders, who ultimately opted not to sign the 34-year-old as a backup for Derek Carr. He also spent time working out with Cleveland tight end David Njoku and wide receiver Jakeem Grant Sr., as well as former Browns wideout Jarvis Landry.
While the idea of Cleveland signing Kaepernick -- who reached a settlement with the NFL in 2019 regarding his allegations that the league colluded to prevent teams from signing him -- is certainly intriguing, there are also plenty of reasons why it is ultimately unlikely. With the Browns possessing a roster that's ready to win, it's tough to imagine them handing the keys to their offense over to a quarterback who hasn't played in the NFL for the previous five seasons.
Currently, Jimmy Garoppolo remains a member of the 49ers roster, even though San Francisco has already committed to Trey Lance as its starting quarterback. Why wouldn't the 49ers just cut Garoppolo, a move that would save them $25.5 million in cap space? Because San Francisco knows that Garoppolo could ultimately be attractive to a team that finds itself in need of a proven starting quarterback, such as the Browns.
While nobody would argue that the 30-year-old Garoppolo is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, the reality is that he's consistently proven that he is good enough to win with, provided that he has the right roster around him. In 2020, he helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, a feat he nearly repeated last season before San Francisco lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.
What's more is that in playing under Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo has extensive experience in a system similar to Stefanski's. Although Stefanski has since adjusted his system to better suit Watson, the Cleveland head coach has shown a willingness to adapt depending on who's under center.
Acquiring Garoppolo would come at a price, but as the Browns' negotiations with the Carolina Panthers regarding Baker Mayfield showed, there are different circumstances for each deal. If Watson is suspended for less than a season, such a trade likely wouldn't make sense. But if the NFL gets its way with an indefinite suspension, it would hardly be a surprise to see speculation regarding Garoppolo and Cleveland intensify.
Stay the course
While the Browns should certainly do their due diligence on available quarterbacks should Watson be suspended for the entire season, the reality remains that they've been preparing for the Clemson product to not be on the field for at least a sizable portion of the 2022 season. As such, Cleveland signed veteran backup Jacoby Brissett, who has 37 career starts to his credit.
The Browns have also signed Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen to fill out their current quarterback room. While Dobbs has yet to make a start in the NFL, he has been in the league since 2017, while Rosen -- a former first-round pick -- has made 16 starts in his four-year career.
To be clear, losing Watson for the entirety of the 2022 season would be a significant blow to Cleveland's chances of returning to the postseason, let alone winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. But the Browns have known that this was a possibility since they acquired Watson, who has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault, during his time with the Houston Texans.