When I wrote the essay on the Mark Geragos claim that Colin Kaepernick would be signed within 10 days, I was discounting (for now) the possibility that the weight of circumstantial evidence would become too great for the arbitrator to dismiss it.
I may be about to revise that viewpoint. The NFL is constantly adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence.
Two attempted quarterback trades occurred at the trade deadline. The 49ers succeeded in acquiring Jimmy Garroppolo from the Patriots. Then an apparent fiasco unfolded right at the trading deadline, with the Cleveland Browns attempting to acquire A.J. McCarron from the Bengals for draft picks, only to have the trade fail to complete, seemingly due to internal SNAFUs in the Browns organization.
From the viewpoint of Kaepernick’s legal team, here are two more clear examples of teams with a quarterback performance issue desperately trying to find another starting quarterback without even asking Colin Kaepernick if he was interested.
The situation will now only get worse for the NFL. With the trade deadline now having passed, if an NFL team loses its starting quarterback to injury, or suddenly becomes desperate for a new option at quarterback, they cannot now trade for a quarterback from another team. They have to sign a free agent, or (far less likely) win a waiver claim contest for a quarterback suddenly released from a team. (That latter scenario is extremely unlikely, since most NFL teams only have 2 quarterbacks on their rosters, and they would not release a quarterback in the season since it would leave them with no backup quarterback in a game).
Colin Kaepernick is a free agent.
So…from this point onwards in the season, any team that signs a free agent quarterback not named Colin Kaepernick is simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that Kaepernick’s legal team will point to as evidence of collusion.
Another underlying challenge in all of this is that Roger Goodell is relatively powerless to influence NFL team behavior. He works for the teams, not the other way around, and since NFL teams are officially forbidden from colluding on any issue other than broadcasting rights, Goodell is now unable to say anything of substance on the Colin Kaepernick issue, especially now it is the subject of a lawsuit, since anything that he does say can be parsed though a viewpoint that asks the question “so were the teams colluding?”. This, by the way, is also why Goodell spoke very carefully about the anthem protests. He cannot be seen to be suggesting to the teams, collectively, what they can or cannot do, and in the case of the anthem issue, his hands are also tied by the CBA, which does not specify any requirements on player behavior for the National Anthem.