One of the most potentially fascinating, fun and/or frustrating things to watch during the 2018 NFL season figures to be the play of four specific quarterbacks: the Vikings’ $84 million man Kirk Cousins and the three men he is replacing — Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater, the three former Vikings QBs who all signed with new teams in the offseason.
The season is still three months away, but with teams deep into Organized Team Activities I thought I would engage in an Organized Though Activity and attempt to handicap how the year might unfold for all four quarterbacks. I’ll do that in two stages: First, which of the three departed QBs figures to have the best year next season. Second, what are the chances that any of those three has a better year than Cousins.
Part I: The Departed
Case Keenum, Broncos: 60 percent chance he has the best 2018 season.
There is some recency bias at play here, since the thing we most clearly remember is Keenum playing quite well for almost all of the 2017 season while Bradford was out with a knee injury and Bridgewater couldn’t supplant Keenum in the return from his injury.
But the word “injury” also plays a big role in this as well. While there is little evidence to suggest Bradford and/or Bridgewater will hold up for 16 games, Keenum has no injury red flags. Combined with the fact that he went to a team (Denver) that like the Vikings figures to have a strong defense (and therefore he shouldn’t have to play beyond his means) and that he has some capable playmakers to work with, Keenum has a reasonable chance to at least approach last year’s production. Keenum seems to be fitting in with the Broncos quite nicely already.
Sam Bradford, Cardinals: 30 percent chance.
Bradford set an NFL record for completion percentage in 2016 with the Vikings even though he was playing behind a patchwork offensive line that more or less torpedoed Minnesota’s season. If his knee remains sound — and lord, that is a big if given how cautious Arizona is being with him still — he could find short-term success with the Cardinals. The problem is that he not only has health concerns but also a first-round QB (Josh Rosen) with whom to contend. If Sam stumbles early, he might lose his job even if healthy.
Teddy Bridgewater, Jets: 10 percent chance.
The OTA reports on Teddy have been favorable, which makes for a nice early story line. But he’s coming back from an injury even more serious than Bradford’s, and he has to fend off not just a veteran (Josh McCown) but also a top rookie (Sam Darnold). That said, it’s a bad idea to count out Bridgewater. If he’s healthy, he could be the Jets’ starter — or he could become trade bait if another team loses a starting QB to injury.
Part II: Three against one
Percent chance any of those QBs has a better season than Kirk Cousins: 35 percent.
Looking at it from the Vikings’ point of view, I’m saying I think there is roughly a 2 in 3 chance Cousins has a more durable and productive season than any of those other quarterbacks in 2018.
Those odds — and the comfort that goes with Cousins’ historical production and durability — are what the Vikings bought this offseason.
The nightmare scenario for Vikings fans, of course, is that one … or two … or all three (!) of the guys they let go ends up shining while Cousins fizzles. The Vikings played the odds right, but there are always risks.