ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – John Elway might find himself in the market for a veteran backup quarterback soon, yet there’s one man who won’t be getting a call: Colin Kaepernick .
“Colin had his chance to be here,” Elway said Thursday when asked if the former San Francisco 49ers QB would be an option if he decides Case Keenum’s backup isn’t already on Denver’s roster.
“We offered him a contract. He didn’t take it,” Elway said. “And as I said at my deposition (in Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit against the NFL) – and I don’t know if I’m legally able to say this – but he’s had his chance to be here. He passed.”
Kaepernick declined to take a pay cut from his $11.9 million salary to facilitate a trade to the Broncos in 2016 following Peyton Manning’s retirement.
Unable to get a discount from Kaepernick or a rebate from the 49ers, Elway moved up in the draft to select former Memphis QB Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft that spring.
Lynch has been a flop and this week was demoted to third string behind Chad Kelly, last year’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” who missed his rookie season while recovering from knee and wrist surgeries.
Kaepernick contends he’s no longer in the NFL because he’s the one who started the protests during the national anthem that have engulfed the league ever since. At first he sat down, then later took a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to highlight social injustices against minorities.
Several players joined in, and President Donald Trump criticized them for disrespecting the flag and U.S. military by not standing during the anthem.
Lynch was beaten out in 2016 and ’17 by seventh-round QB Trevor Siemian, who was traded to Minnesota in the offseason following Keenum’s free-agent signing. Elway declared the backup job up for grabs between Lynch and Kelly.
Lynch was demoted after failing to read defenses correctly and throwing for just 24 yards in seven series in Denver’s preseason opener against the Vikings.
Kelly threw for 177 yards and two TDs in mop-up duty, but that was his first game in more than 640 days. And he’s had a tougher time this week while running with the second string against the Bears’ backups in joint practices at the UC Health Center .
Kelly will get a long look Saturday night against Chicago as Elway determines whether he can trust him to step in and win games if necessary.
What he’s looking for in a backup QB is a guy “who has the experience and the ability to come in and help you win a football game,” Elway said. “It’s a different quality because you have to be ready all the time, and mentally be ready all the time and you don’t get a chance to play all the time.
“And as hard as it is to find a starter, it’s just as hard to find a guy that can back up. And so, we’re always looking for those.”
If Elway doesn’t feel comfortable with Kelly as his backup, he could sign a free agent next week who isn’t in anyone’s camp or wait for final cuts on Sept. 1 for more options.
“We’ll wait through this week and see what happens,” Elway said. “I feel like we still have time.”
Elway said he’s been pleased with Keenum, save for his pair of three-and-outs in the preseason opener.
“I was hoping to get off to a better start than we had the first week in the preseason,” Elway said. “But it’s been a good week of practice and Case has had a good camp. So, hopefully we dig in a little bit more this week and get off to a better start.”
And he’s hoping Kelly provides a better performance with the second string than Lynch did.
Elway might soon have to cut the man he once thought was his next franchise quarterback.
“We haven’t played two preseason games yet,” Elway said, “so I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.”
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