A clean slate of Vikings quarterbacks is clearing the way for Kirk Cousins.
Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford agreed to terms Tuesday with new teams, marking the official end of their tenures in Minnesota, league sources told the Star Tribune.
Unrestricted free agents can’t officially sign with other teams until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon when the new league year begins.
Early Tuesday morning, Keenum and the Broncos agreed to a deal. Contract terms were not immediately available. Bradford, 30, is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Cardinals. The deal is worth up to $20 million, including $15 million guaranteed and a one-year option for $20 million, according to ESPN.
Late Tuesday, Bridgewater was the last domino to fall when he agreed to a deal with the Jets. It’s reportedly for one year, according to ESPN. Josh McCown also agreed to a one-year extension with the Jets, according to his agent Mike McCartney.
This all comes with Cousins visiting the Vikings on Wednesday and Thursday, with the possibility of a three-year, $84 million guaranteed contract on the table. The Vikings’ pursuit of Cousins set the stage for a quarterback exodus.
Keenum moves on from the Vikings after he parlayed a one-year, $2 million deal into 13 victories as the starter after Bradford suffered a noncontact bone bruise in his left knee.
Denver, one of a few main contenders for Cousins, adds Keenum to a young and underperforming quarterback room led by Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.
A main draw for Keenum to Denver was likely Gary Kubiak, the Broncos’ senior personnel adviser who was the Houston Texans head coach when Keenum signed an undrafted deal in 2012. Keenum has said the Texans, led by Kubiak, were the only NFL team to offer him a deal after he went undrafted.
In Minnesota, Keenum’s career-high marks in yards (3,547) and passing touchdowns (22) came with questions around whether he could repeat his 2017 season. His standout year ended with 271 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions during the Vikings’ NFC Championship Game loss in Philadelphia.
Coach Mike Zimmer was vocal about those questions, most recently at the NFL scouting combine last month.
“It’s just kind of guessing,” Zimmer said. “Is he the guy when he was at Houston or the Rams or is he the guy who played for us? Is it because he had a good team around him?”
Zimmer had concerns about Bradford, too, who will sign on in Arizona, a league source confirmed with the Star Tribune.
It’s a risky deal for the Cardinals, because Bradford is coming off his third surgery on a troublesome left knee. He threw for more than 4,250 yards in 17 starts for the Vikings, but only before missing nearly all of last season because of a knee injury that eventually required surgery. Zimmer was not confident in Bradford’s ability to remain healthy.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Zimmer said. “Is he going to be able to maintain for 15 weeks, 16 weeks, or is he going to get, really, almost a noncontact injury and be out for the year? All three of those guys have different things.”
With the Vikings in position to sign a megadeal with Cousins, Bridgewater is also on the road out of Minnesota behind Bradford and Keenum.
The Vikings traded up to select Bridgewater with the 32nd overall pick in 2014. He started 29 games before suffering a catastrophic knee injury nearly two years ago.
He returned as Keenum’s backup for eight regular season games before the Vikings deactivated Bridgewater for both playoff games.
“Each day I had to maintain the right mind-set, that it’s not about me,” Bridgewater told the Star Tribune last month. “It’s about those other guys in the locker room, this team and this organization. I had to control the competitor in me. As a competitor, you want to be out there.”
Bridgewater hasn’t played extended action in an NFL game since the injury.
The Vikings might face Bradford or Bridgewater next season. Minnesota is scheduled to host the Cardinals and travel to the Jets in 2018.