Written by- George Haraktsis
Toward the conclusion of the NFC championship game the Vikings saw their Super Bowl chances slip away as the seconds ticked off the clock. As each second ticked away one couldn’t help to think that Case Keenum’s time in a Vikings uniform was coming to an end as well. Keenum had an abysmal game, completing only 58.3% of his passes and throwing two interceptions to go along with one touchdown. His 63.8 quarterback rating and 4.19 Yard per passing attempt were both his lowest totals of the year, Case was flat out bad in the biggest game of his career.
This wasn’t the feeling around the league at the end of the regular season. Some pundits thought after throwing for over 3500 yards, 22 TDs, only 7 interceptions and leading the Vikings to a 13–3 record, Keenum had the starting quarterback job locked up in 2018. Now, the Vikings quarterback situation is even murkier than before. With Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, AND Teddy Bridgewater all hitting the market this off-season Minnesota has some major decisions to make. What will the Vikings do?
After the debacle in the championship game it’s hard to imagine that the Vikings will use the tag on Keenum, which would project somewhere north of $22 million. If he had a big night and led them to a Super Bowl, Minnesota most likely would have tried to sign Keenum to a long term deal, or at worst, franchised him. But with this loss, the probability of Keenum reaching a deal with the Vikings in any sort of capacity went down the drain. In all reality, Keenum cost himself a lot of money with that performance in the NFC title game.
On the bright side, with this loss the Vikings may have saved themselves from making a long term commitment to a below average player that could have crippled them in the future. Keenum will in all likelihood get a deal in the $16-$18 million a year range, but it may be with another team like the Jets or Broncos. With that being said, the Vikings still have to have a discussion on who will start under center next year, and the two options right now are Bridgewater and Bradford.
Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings 2015 1st round pick and former pro bowler, is by all indications healthy again. In August of 2016, Bridgewater suffered such a horrific knee injury in practice that it was questionable if he would ever be able to suit up again. This past December- almost a year and a half after his injury- Bridgewater played for the Minnesota Vikings again. It was a garbage time blowout over Cincinnati in relief for Keenum where Bridgewater’s first pass was picked off, but it signaled an and to a long journey back to the field that Teddy has been fighting for.
Even healthy, Bridgewater is still a major work in progress and he was inactive for a playoff game against the Saints with Bradford getting the nod as backup instead. To even further complicate the situation, the Vikings may try to toll Bridgewater’s contract and keep him on the roster, but this is unlikely given that he would most likely file a grievance against Minnesota.
The most likely scenario for Bridgewater is signing with another team with a QB who’s nearing the end of their career like the Saints or Chargers, and grooming him for a few years under the veteran until he’s ready and they’re retired. This would allow Bridgewater to learn from a seasoned veteran while not having to be pressured to start immediately. Unfortunately for Teddy his future does not look bright in Minnesota.
Last and certainly not least of the three quarterbacks is Sam Bradford. Bradford began the year as Minnesota’s starter, and beat the Saints to the tune of 346 yards, three scores and no picks on 27-of-32 passes. Unfortunately, the signal caller injured his knee in this game, and attempted a comeback against the Chicago Bears in Week 5 but needed to be shut down for the rest of the regular season to heal his knee.
Bradford was activated for the playoffs but did not receive a single snap the entire time. With Bradford’s age, injury history, and the other options at the position in mind it does not look likely that the Vikings will sign him either. He will most likely go to a quarterback needy team like the Cardinals on a “prove it” deal, that pays him contingent on his health and production.
So what’s next? Cousins?
The Vikings, I believe, have two options here. The first of which is re-signing their current starter Case Keenum. The best bet for the Vikings is to sign Keenum to a team friendly deal similar to the one Mike Glennon signed with the Bears. The deal was for 3 years for $45 million dollars and included a guaranteed $18.5 million, it was basically a one-year, $18.5 million with team options for 2018 and ‘19.
In this Scenario, the Vikings would obviously give Keenum a bit more money, but this would be a great structure to base the deal off of. The Vikings could give him the money he wants, and potentially secure him for a few more years if he plays to their expectations. On the other hand, Keenum would not be getting the best end of this deal but he’ll get to stay with the team that he loves, make a significant amount of money for at least one year, and be able to bet on himself with his production. This would be a perfect fit if the teams would ever agree to a deal like this.
Option two, the “sexier” option, would be for the Vikings to completely disregard all three of these quarterbacks and go for the prized free agent in this year’s class, Kirk Cousins. Cousins will be significantly pricier than these three options (potentially over $30 a year) but is a guaranteed step up in production. With over $50 million in cap space, the Vikings could very well make this happen.
They have a plentiful amount of offensive weapons to surround Cousins with, and an already stout defense to support him on the other side of the ball. Cousins has seen that this team can make it to a championship game and can certainly help them get to the next level. If the Vikings want to hit a homerun and go for a Super Bowl, this would be a match made in heaven.