As with everything related to Colin Kaepernick, the news of his salary demand from the AAF became a divisive talking point.
The Associated Press’ Barry Wilner reported that Kaepernick “wanted $20 million or more” to play in the AAF. The Action Network’s Darren Rovell said Kaepernick wanted more than $20 million. Obviously, Kaepernick to the AAF never happened. But what did happen was a round of outrage from Kaepernick’s critics because he didn’t do what they would do.
Kaepernick clearly wasn’t dying to get in the AAF; his salary request (assuming the reports are accurate) was obviously not going to be met. It was a Hail Mary request from someone who had to know it would get turned down. And if the AAF agreed, well, it’s $20 million. The AAF’s entire player payroll for its first season isn’t much more than $20 million. And it’s OK that Kaepernick made what looks like a crazy ask.
Kaepernick doesn’t need the AAF, though the new league could have used him.
Colin Kaepernick doesn’t need to play in a football minor league
The same types of conversations happened with Tim Tebow, though with different undertones. People yelled that Tebow should change positions, or go to the CFL, once he had a tough time making an NFL roster. Tebow did neither. He became an announcer and then a minor-league baseball player. He seems content, considering he too didn’t want to come play in the AAF. Nothing says he, or Kaepernick, should have to play in a lower football league just to appease us.
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, though that doesn’t fuel social media rage. Kaepernick should look around at the quarterbacks clearly less talented than him signing in the NFL and feel he belongs there. Guys like Taylor Heinecke or Brandon Weeden, backups in the NFL last season, aren’t told to go to the AAF to rebuild their image. No other AAF quarterback has anywhere near the NFL resume Kaepernick has, either.
If Kaepernick doesn’t want to play for the standard AAF contract of $225,000 over three years, that’s his decision. It’s logical. Also, Kaepernick could dominate the AAF and it’s far from a guarantee an NFL team would sign him, for all the reasons he hasn’t been signed the past couple years.
The AAF had a good opening weekend, and for many reasons it looks like it has a chance to actually survive for a while. What it doesn’t have is a big name. Trent Richardson isn’t it. Kaepernick is still among the most talked-about football players in the world. People would have tuned in to watch him. Maybe that’s not worth $20 million to the AAF, but it’s worth a lot more than a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Kaepernick’s legacy is about more than football
Kaepernick doesn’t need to play football again. His reputation as a quarterback has grown among his supporters with every passing year. The Jaguars probably wouldn’t have won a Super Bowl with Kaepernick, and Kaepernick probably wasn’t going to come in cold and lead the Redskins to a playoff berth after Alex Smith’s injury last season, though some believe that. But with every quarterback move that doesn’t involve Kaepernick, it’s accompanied by the inevitable tweets about how great Kaepernick is.
Kaepernick doesn’t need to take a beating behind bad offensive lines in the AAF to prove anything. He might not need the NFL either. He seems to be doing well financially, and surely Nike endorsement money helps a lot with that. His settlement on Friday with the NFL over his collusion grievance likely paid him very well, too. Football-wise, his legend grows and grows as he stays out of the spotlight. Nothing he could do in the AAF could improve it. He also has a lot more going on in his life other than football. He’d presumably play in the NFL if given a real shot but not settle for anything less than that, and that shouldn’t be a mystery or controversy.
The criticism over Kaepernick’s salary request isn’t even about football, everyone knows that. It’s an easy path for some to rip him again. But it wasn’t unreasonable. Kaepernick presumably feels he’s above having to grind it out for a small salary in the AAF to prove a point he shouldn’t have to prove, and he’s right about that.
The AAF moves on without Kaepernick, and Kaepernick moves on without the AAF. Kaepernick will be just fine without it.
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