Case Keenum is one of six Vikings quarterbacks to win 12 games in one season. Maybe the team will honor him if he ever returns to U.S. Bank Stadium.
We might not know for years whether the Vikings are making the right decisions regarding their quarterbacks, but we can again be assured they are making the most interesting possible decisions regarding their quarterbacks. The only thing missing from this drama is a flight to Hattiesburg.
The Vikings reportedly will not attach the franchise tag to Keenum, meaning he can test free agency.
They reportedly will not attempt to “toll” the contract of Teddy Bridgewater, meaning he can test free agency.
These developments suggest a likely recruitment of the most prolific quarterback available in free agency, Kirk Cousins.
Once again, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is taking a risk. The safest route available to him was placing the franchise tag on Keenum, ensuring he would retain the services of a popular starting quarterback for the 2018 season.
Instead, Spielman appears to be gambling that he can either improve on Keenum, or bring him back on a deal that would benefit the Vikings more than the one-year, approximately $24 million contract he would get under the terms of a franchise tag.
In Spielman’s profession, gambling gets you fired. But so do bland moves, or any combination of aggressiveness and passiveness that doesn’t lead to the playoffs.
Give him credit. Spielman has won with many of his gambles.
Percy Harvin, Everson Griffen and Dalvin Cook were considered character risks coming out of college. Harvin performed well before bringing value in a trade, Griffen is a star and Cook might have become the rookie of the year had he remained healthy last season.
And when it comes to quarterbacks, Spielman has learned that “safe” can be a synonym for “bland.”
Christian Ponder was a safe pick. He was athletic, intelligent and likable and played for an excellent program. None of that mattered. He couldn’t keep his job.
Think Spielman won’t move aggressively to sign Cousins?
Remember what Spielman did about 18 months ago. He made a move nobody expected, trading for Sam Bradford just before the start of the 2016 season.
And if Spielman’s offensive line had held up that season, or Bradford’s knee had held up in 2017, Bradford would be the Vikings quarterback of the present and future.
Spielman is aggressive in a specific manner. He wants to win a Super Bowl. He is not willing to settle for an inspirational season, a great playoff moment, and a ticket to the NFC Championship Game.
Is Cousins better than Keenum? Maybe.
Is Cousins more of a sure thing than Keenum? Absolutely.
Keenum is 30 and has produced one impressive NFL season.
Cousins is 29 and has produced three impressive NFL seasons.
Cousins started one playoff game following the 2015 season, throwing for 329 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a loss to Green Bay.
Keenum started two playoff games last season. He averted a collapse to which he was contributing against the Saints when Marcus Williams decided not to tackle Stefon Diggs. Then he went ahead and executed a full collapse, along with his teammates, against the Eagles.
Cousins has three desirable options in free agency, assuming he doesn’t hate himself enough to sign with the Cleveland Browns.
He can sign with the Jets and earn maximum pay.
He can sign with the Broncos and hope their defense, without Wade Phillips, can perform at a championship level again. Which is unlikely. The Broncos finished 5-11 last season.
He can sign with the Vikings, play his home games indoors and try to elevate a team that went to the NFC Championship Game without its starting quarterback or running back last year.
If I’m Cousins, I sign with the Vikings.
If I’m Spielman, I sign Cousins.
There is a deal to be made here, a rare chance to solidify the quarterback position for years.
Who says no?