The Browns were prepared to send a third-round pick San Francisco's way so long as the Niners ate about $4 million of the outspoken quarterback's $12 million salary, which ended up quashing the deal, according to ProFootballTalk.
But after a season in which Kaepernick was 1-10 as a starter and made headlines by protesting racial discrimination through kneeling during the national anthem before games, prompting similar protests from other players, the quarterback remains unsigned weeks into free agency.
All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas tried to explain why his traditionally quarterback-starved Browns haven't rekindled their interest in Kaepernick via a series of tweets.
My thoughts re: @Kaepernick7? Teams don't currently view him as a starting QB, and NFL teams accept ZERO distractions from their backup QBs.
— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) March 25, 2017
I think mine would be; anytime a player does something that forces his teammates to answer questions from media unrelated to football.
— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) March 26, 2017
Clearly this doesn't apply to all NFL teams—five years ago, the New York Jets traded for a worse quarterback who arguably drew even more clubhouse attention: Tim Tebow. The Browns won one game last season and have had a different QB lead the team in passing for six consecutive seasons.
Also dousing Thomas' theory: Kaepernick has said he won't be protesting during the national anthem any longer.
"I'm sure he is [being blackballed]," Sherman told First Take on Friday. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand. Obviously he's going to be in a backup role at this point. But you see quarterbacks, there was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year. So it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before."
Despite returning from shoulder surgery and the 49ers' record, Kaepernick was sneakily competent as a starter in 2016. In 12 games (11 starts), he threw 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions, and owned the seventh-best interception percentage among quarterbacks with at least 300 passes—ahead of the likes of Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. While taking care of the football, he remained his elusive self in the running game, rushing for 468 yards and two scores.
"You don't have 32 starting-level quarterbacks in this league," Sherman continued. "You have about eight elites, and then you have the rest of the league. You have about eight, nine elite quarterbacks. You have two or three who have the potential to be elite. And then you have the rest of the teams. So he could play and start on a ton of teams in this league. He would be a starter on probably 20 of the teams in this league. But you're telling me that you're going to let other guys, you're going to pick up some of these other guys and tell me that they're starters?"