For over two seasons, just about every new quarterback signing in the NFL has had one name attached to the story: Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick had accused the league and teams of colluding to blackball him from NFL rosters following his criminal justice system protests during the 2016 season. And every new mediocre, aged, or inexperienced QB added to team payrolls begged the question: Why not Kaepernick?

That question might have a little more of an answer to it now. Kaepernick settled his grievance with the NFL last week. And while the exact details of the settlement are confidential, some are estimating he could’ve received up to $40 million to withdraw his claims.

Secret Settlement

To be fair, Kaepernick and his co-plaintiff, former fellow 49er and current Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, also saw some risk in continuing the case. As Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann points out, Article 17 of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement would require Kaepernick to prove collusion by a “clear preponderance of the evidence” and that the collusion caused him economic harm. Not exactly an easy standard to meet, but the fact that his grievance survived the league’s motion to dismiss indicates that Kaepernick had enough evidence of collusion to bring the case to a fact finder.

And the NFL would also be concerned about what a more public hearing on the facts would disclose. As Kaepernick’s lawyer said on Twitter: “For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.” In fact, any public comment or release of details could void the settlement.

If You Can’t Join ‘Em

Naturally, the confidentiality allows supporters of either side to spin the settlement to fit their story. But for an image-conscious league not known or backing down from players, it certainly seems like the NFL is conceding something improper in the quarterback’s freeze out. Kaepernick, for his part, appears poised to join the Alliance of American Football league — a newly-formed, lower tier professional league — if it can stay afloat.

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