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Three years after rejecting Broncos' pay-cut offer, Kaepernick to hold workout

Elway and Kubiak visited with QB in hopes of selling him on trade from 49ers to Denver. It didn't happen and both sides have since hit tough times.
Credit: AP Photo/Tony Avelar
In this Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The last team that expressed a desire to acquire Colin Kaepernick was the Denver Broncos.

It wasn’t Kaepernick’s first, last and only NFL team, the San Francisco 49ers. They tried to get rid of their quarterback prior to the 2016 season.

This is worth revisiting upon the news Tuesday that the NFL invited all 32 teams to attend a league-organized Kaepernick workout and interview session Saturday in Atlanta.

John Elway shouldn’t ignore the invitation but he could be forgiven if he declines.

After the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 to cap the 2015 season, after their legendary quarterback Peyton Manning retired and assumed heir apparent Brock Osweiler left for free agency and the Houston Texans, the Broncos were interested in acquiring the talented if enigmatic Kaepernick from the 49ers. The parameters of a trade were set up on the condition Kaepernick would accept a pay cut from a mostly guaranteed $14.3 million in 2016 to $7 million.

Understandably, Kaepernick balked. Elway, the Broncos’ general manager, and head coach Gary Kubiak got permission from all involved parties to host Kaepernick at Elway’s house. One of the pitches to the 49ers’ quarterback was he could make his money back in incentives.

Kaepernick declined and returned to the 49ers, where he went 1-10 in what was his final year. Yes, his 16 touchdown passes against 4 interceptions in that 2016 season was an indication the 49ers’ woes extended beyond the quarterback position.

Elway and Kubiak, meanwhile, moved on and in the first round of the 2016 draft selected quarterback Paxton Lynch.

And so it worked out for neither Kaepernick nor the Broncos.

Kaepernick has not played since that 2016 season. The widespread suspicion is his weekly protests of what he perceived as social inequality in our country – demonstrations that started with sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem prior to a 2016 preseason game against the Broncos -- as the primary reason why the otherwise accomplished Kaepernick has been unemployed for going on three full seasons.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are going on their fourth consecutive season without reaching the playoffs.

If only both sides could have a re-do. Would Kaepernick still be the Broncos’ quarterback had he accepted the pay cut? Would the Broncos have not gone through so many quarterbacks as Trevor Siemian, Lynch, Osweiler, Case Keenum and Joe Flacco on their way to a 22-34 record before Brandon Allen won his debut two weeks ago?

Then again, what may have damaged the Broncos more than anything else during their four-year slump was Kubiak suffering a recurrence of his migraine attacks. The Broncos started 4-0 in 2016 before losing to Atlanta in Game 5. Kubiak was stricken in the locker room after the Atlanta loss and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

He returned but he was on orders to cut back on his day-to-day coaching commitments. He retired as head coach for medical reasons after that 2016 season and the Broncos have not been the same.

Kubiak is now the assistant head coach in charge of offense for the Minnesota Vikings, who will host Elway’s Broncos on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Allen will get his second NFL start for the Broncos, who meanwhile started practicing quarterback Drew Lock with plans of eventually playing the second-round rookie in the final two games or five.

So while Kaepernick will be working out Saturday in Atlanta, Elway and Kubiak will be in Minnesota.

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