Mobile quarterback threats Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III are often linked because of their on-field similarities and simultaneous breakout seasons in 2012. The 2016 connection stems from how a possible trade involving the 49ers star could impact the future for the ex-Redskin.
The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be shopping Kaepernick. Reports have several teams interested in the soon-to-be sixth-year quarterback. Many of the same teams are purportedly interested in Griffin. That list includes the Denver Broncos, who just lost free agent Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys.
If the 49ers trade Kaepernick, what does that mean for Griffin? It could mean several things, but the first and most obvious question becomes whether San Francisco would be interested in Griffin as their starting quarterback.
Whether Griffin has the tools to be a successful starting quarterback is a matter of debate in itself, so it’s hard to predict with any certainty if he would be a good fit in San Francisco. It stands to reason that 49ers new head coach Chip Kelly, previously of the Philadelphia Eagles, has a good understanding of Griffin’s skillset, having coached in the same division as the Redskins and Griffin for the past three seasons.
Given the extra dimensions that Griffin (or Kaepernick) can add to Kelly’s beloved playbook, it makes sense that Kelly would be interested in having a dual-threat quarterback. But the equation isn’t that simple. San Francisco acquired Blaine Gabbert from Jacksonville last season, and then-coach Jim Tomsula started him over Kaepernick for the final eight games of the season. Gabbert is still under contract and figures to be in the mix for the 49ers’ starting job.
With Johnny Manziel gone, the Browns have a vacant starting quarterback role to fill. They also have the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, so they could potentially find their starter through the draft if they chose to. The Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, are reportedly stalemated in negotiations, so New York could be a potential landing spot for Griffin.
At the same time, some suggest the Jets would first turn to Brian Hoyer.
Meanwhile, there appears to be mutual interest between Griffin and the Rams. The current projected starter for the Rams, as stated by head coach Jeff Fisher numerous times this offseason, is Case Keenum.
The Rams extended a first-round tender to Keenum on Wednesday, a move that gives them insurance against other teams interested in him. Still, it’s hard to imagine they are dead set on Keenum as their Week 1 starter.
Lastly, the Broncos need a starting quarterback now that Peyton Manning has retired and Osweiler bolted for big money in Houston. Reports have them interested in both Kaepernick and Griffin.
At the same time, the Broncos could choose to go in an entirely different direction. Last season’s Super Bowl champions proved they didn’t need a huge playmaker under center to get it done.
It bears mentioning that Fisher and Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak are close with former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who drafted Griffin in 2012. Fischer and Shanahan’s relationship dates back to the early 1990’s, when they were both assistants in San Francisco, while Kubiak served as Shanahan's offensive coordinator in Denver.
Griffin could still land anywhere, and there is still a good chance he doesn’t wind up as a starter. Backup spots with Kansas City and Dallas are often rumored. But for now, with the current state of the quarterback market, he wouldn’t be crazy to hold out hope for a starting gig.
Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.
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