John Harbaugh, whose brother Jim coached Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers, has been Kaepernick’s most outspoken supporter in the league and has talked to him throughout the summer. Greg Roman, an assistant with the Ravens, was Kaepernick’s offensive coordinator during his most successful seasons in the NFL.
What are the chances that the Ravens sign Kaepernick? It depends on whether the Ravens feel the need to improve their insurance behind quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Ravens still believe Flacco will be back within a week and recovered from a back issue. But Harbaugh acknowledged that back problems can be tricky, which serves as a reminder that Baltimore better have the best backup plan.
Ryan Mallett is the team’s current No. 2 quarterback, but he has been inconsistent. In two seasons with the Ravens, he has completed 59 percent of his passes, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Under Roman, Kaepernick went 25-14 as a starter, throwing 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. His passer rating was 90.6.
It’s legitimate to question whether Kaepernick is better than Mallett, or at the very least, whether the team should sign Kaepernick and let them compete to determine it on the field. The Ravens’ commitment to Mallett is a $1 million signing bonus.
Harbaugh, who voiced his support of Kaepernick at the owners meetings in March, mentioned the QB unprompted at his media session Thursday, saying the team hasn’t ruled out signing him.
“He’s a great guy and he’s a guy that’s being talked about,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see what happens with that. It would all be speculation right now. I think he’s a really good football player.”
The controversy surrounding Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem last season — which he no longer plans to do — isn’t seen as an obstacle to Baltimore.
Last year, Ravens senior vice president of public relations Kevin Byrne addressed in a lengthy piece how the team would handle Kaepernick’s situation. He wrote that the Ravens wouldn’t be happy with his game-day protest, but the team would encourage him to express himself at a press event that Baltimore would set up.
Kaepernick wouldn’t be the Ravens’ first outspoken player under Harbaugh. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo led a campaign to support same-sex marriage during Baltimore’s Super Bowl season five years ago.
The bigger hurdle might be Kaepernick himself. The Ravens have a limited amount of salary-cap room, and Kaepernick would have to determine whether Baltimore’s offer would be enough to continue playing and to compete for a backup job.
“It all depends on a lot of things,” Harbaugh said. “It depends on Colin first of all and what’s his passion, what’s his priority [and] what he wants to do.”
Baltimore needs to add another quarterback quickly. The Ravens had an assistant coach go under center and hand off to running backs during one drill because they have only two healthy quarterbacks (Mallett and Dustin Vaughan). But the team is looking to sign a stopgap for a few days, not a previous starter like Kaepernick.
Whether Kaepernick ends up in Baltimore is, as Harbaugh said, speculation at this point. But it’s easy to connect the dots if the Ravens believe he’s an upgrade as the backup quarterback.