There’s an old, dumb, incorrect football saying that goes, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Well, the Vikings this season had three quarterbacks. And now, it appears, they actually do have none.
Free agency is two weeks away, and the deadline for placing franchise tags on players is one week away, and the Vikings have begun making decisions. NFL.com reported yesterday that Minnesota will not use the franchise tag on Case Keenum (who stepped in for the injured Sam Bradford, who took the place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater, who even when back to full health did not win the job back from Keenum, who led the team to the NFC title game. It was messy, but it worked somehow.) And now today, this:
This is more complicated than merely not re-signing Bridgewater. Because of his long-term injury, the Vikings could have made a case—it was certainly not cut-and-dried—that his contract should have tolled, which would roll it over a full year and have him essentially play for free in 2018. Bridgewater would have filed a grievance, and if an arbitrator had ruled in favor of the Vikings, Bridgewater would have remained under team control for one more year, but with obvious bad blood. That wouldn’t have been a good situation for anyone. Instead, the Vikings are making it known that they won’t attempt to toll his contract, and allow him to hit free agency.
So, Keenum is a free agent after the journeyman turned in a magical season that no front office in its right mind would count on him repeating. Bridgewater, five years younger but with uncertain health prospects, is a free agent. They’re not going to re-sign Sam Bradford.
The Vikings could bring back Keenum, at a cheaper rate than the franchise tag (probably around $23.5 million), or Bridgewater, but neither is Plan A for a starter.
That’d be Kirk Cousins, who’s going to be the focus of a bidding war, with the Jets, Broncos, Browns, and Cardinals definitely in the mix, likely along with others. But the Vikings have more than enough cap space to make Cousins the highest paid player of all time, which he likely will be, and they have an excellent defense and some great receivers, which might make them the most attractive landing spot. It’s an open secret that the Vikings are going to make “a strong push” for Cousins, and there’s reportedly mutual interest.
If Cousins goes elsewhere, the Vikings could make a run at Drew Brees, even though he’s expected to end up back with New Orleans. And after that, the pickings get slim. Nick Foles in a trade? Josh McCown? If it comes down to it, a reunion with Keenum or Bridgewater might be the stopgap solution as the Vikings grab a quarterback in a draft that’s pretty deep with them. But right now it looks like Cousins or bust. And if the defense plays like it did last year, that could end up the difference between a Super Bowl and a wasted season.