Mike Zimmer is in the market for a starting quarterback and an offensive coordinator. Two job openings linked closely together that will have a significant impact on the direction the Vikings take following an NFC Championship Game appearance.
Zimmer has to get this right. Both decisions.
Often when teams go searching for a quarterback and offensive coordinator, something went horribly wrong. They’re usually starting over.
That’s not Zimmer’s reality. His team is built to contend now. The Vikings’ no-show dud in Philadelphia won’t lower expectations by meaningful degree, as long as Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman don’t whiff on those two pressing needs — quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Finding Pat Shurmur’s replacement is the first order of business. His scheme, play-calling and ability to maximize individual talent enabled the Vikings to mitigate injuries to Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook and become a top-10 scoring offense.
Zimmer said he doesn’t intend to take “a square peg and put it in a round hole” with his offense. In other words, he’s not looking for a radical philosophical shift. He wants to keep many of the same principles, which makes sense because the nucleus of skill players thrived in Shurmur’s system.
The quarterback question is more complicated. The public conversation about how the organization should proceed in deciding among Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Bradford is too limited in scope.
Why not look outside Winter Park?
Their first phone call should be to Drew Brees. Yes, that sounds like crazy talk, but what’s the harm in trying?
Brees is a free agent and has stated publicly that he hopes to stay with the New Orleans Saints. That’s the most logical outcome because he is so ingrained with that organization and community.
But why not call him and make a passionate sales pitch that includes a whopper of a contract? Something in the range of $28 million to $30 million per season.
Make Brees say no. Then call him back the next day.
The Vikings have many selling points for any quarterback: final four team this season, No. 1 defense, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, the return of Cook from injury, improved offensive line that should get more upgrades this offseason, sparkling new team complex.
Brees might be pie in the sky, but so was Brett Favre at one time. The Vikings were all-in back then, and they certainly should be now, too. The worst that could happen is that Brees says “no thanks.”
The Vikings should act aggressively. Explore all options. That includes Kirk Cousins, assuming Washington doesn’t use the franchise tag again. Cousins also will command a megadeal with a longer term, but he should be high on their list.
The Vikings shouldn’t restrict their search to the three most familiar quarterbacks, though the process requires sorting through that unusual dynamic.
Zimmer didn’t drop any hints into his QB deliberation at his postseason wrap-up Tuesday, but one must think that privately he has some preference in mind.
If choosing strictly among those three, they should pick Keenum, who is in line for a substantial pay increase. His turnovers in the playoffs were troubling, but he performed admirably this season and brings less risk than Bridgewater and Bradford.
Paying Keenum $15-plus million annually sounds hard to swallow, but maybe they could negotiate lower. If the Vikings used the franchise tag on him, that would cost around $20 million but only for one season.
Bradford finished the season second on the depth chart, but his recurring knee problems unfortunately are concerning. The Vikings should move on.
Bridgewater’s situation is tricky, too. The Vikings can’t possibly know with certainty how he will play or if his knee will hold up. Bridgewater said he considers himself ready to be a starter again, but any organization that makes that investment without seeing Bridgewater in action this season is taking a considerable gamble.
The season just ended but this is a critical time for Zimmer. His disappointment from a lousy finish will stick for a while, but the process of getting his team back to that spot starts with two major personnel decisions.