The holidays are a great time for family and friends to get together and catch up about school, jobs, and debate like mad about politics, “the good ol’ days” and sports. A particularly hot topic that was being heavily debated this year was what the Minnesota Vikings should do next season at the quarterback position. It seemed everyone was a resident expert about the decision Rick Spielman, the Vikings GM, should make next year. Pay Case Keenum? Hope Bridgewater is the savior and his knee holds up? Pay Bradford because we gave up a first-round pick for him? I even heard faint chants of “We want Favre! We want Favre!”
What a great problem to have for the Vikings front office. I’m sure (cue sarcasm) even some faithful Cleveland sports fans would give up LeBron James for a decent starting QB. Everyone has their own opinion on what the Vikes should do. Let’s not be like that obnoxious relative that aimlessly screams at a higher volume to make his opinion heard. Rather, let’s lay out all the facts and make an informed decision like rational adults.
Option 1: Pay Sam Bradford
Can we move on to option two, anyone? Anyone? Look, Bradford looked great in the one game he played for the purple and gold this season. Some may argue MVP-ish. He made throws against the New Orleans Saints that put the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to shame. Few have questioned Bradford’s talent, but his talent has never been the issue in question. Last season, Bradford was coming into a new system with a new offense and had the worst offensive line in football. I don’t hold last year against Bradford by any means. He has had an injury-riddled career, the latest being an injury to the same knee that he tore in 2013 and 2014. Are the Vikings ready to commit long-term money to a guy who has struggled to play a full season in his whole career? Will the first-round pick we gave up for him influence Spielman’s decision? This is a real thing. It’s called the sunk cost fallacy and it’s when your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.
Option 2: Resign Teddy Bridgewater to a short-term or long-term contract
I am a fan of Teddy two-gloves and so are thousands of other Vikings fans. Just listen to the standing ovation he received when he entered the game in the fourth quarter as the Vikings led 34–0 over the Bengals.
Full disclosure: he did end up throwing an interception on his first pass attempt, but to be fair, it wasn’t totally his fault. Teddy is going to be rusty. He hasn’t thrown a pass since August, 2016 when he dislocated his knee. His health is suspect considering he could’ve lost his leg due to the damage he suffered. Not to mention even when he was healthy, he never displayed that he could throw the ball downfield to stretch the defense at all. Here is the bottom line: Do the Vikings think that Teddy Bridgewater can lead this team to a Super Bowl next season? The Vikings are in full win-now mode with a stellar defense and playmakers on both sides of the ball. This question will heavily influence the Viking’s decision. Bridgewater is in the final year of his rookie contract, and the decision may be made for the Vikings by another team. What is to stop the Arizona Cardinals or another team in need of a QB to gamble on Bridgewater’s injury and development?
Keep in mind that before the injury, a lot of NFL executives were very high on the former Louisville Cardinal quarterback, including the Vikings. Another thing to consider is whether they sign him to a short-term or long-term contract. Should he be a backup in Minnesota? How much money will he be offered by other teams? The Vikings decision on Bridgewater will be heavily influenced by what other teams choose to do. If there are no other suitors, the Vikings could re-sign Bridgewater to a team-friendly deal and see what happens.
Option 3: Pay Case Keenum
Case Keenum has been overlooked his whole career. He had only one scholarship offer out of high school and was an undrafted free-agent out of Houston where he set multiple NCAA passing records. Not to mention being released by the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. Keenum made 10 appearances in his second year with the Rams. He threw for 2,201 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was deemed a stand-in until the Rams could get a newer, flashier, younger QB in the draft. In his defense, he had next to no weapons to throw to and a suspect offensive line at best.
When the Vikings called, Case signed a deal with them for one year and worth $2 million with incentives. He was going to be a third-string QB after Bradford and Bridgewater (when he got healthy). When Bradford went down, Keenum grabbed the reins of Pat Shurmur’s offense and never let go to the starting job. He developed great chemistry with his receivers, in particular, Adam Thielen. The Vikings finally had the down-field threat they always needed in the Adrian Peterson era. Keenum displayed his mental and physical toughness countless times this season. Keenum ranks seventh in the league in passer rating (98.3) and second in completion percentage (67.6%). The question with Keenum is how much is he going to demand on the open market, and can the Vikings secure him for the right price?
If the Vikings were to sign Keenum, the question looms: what to do with Bradford and Bridgewater? Can the Vikings really just let them both go for nothing? Bradford, yes. Bridgewater? Hang on, I’ve got a plan. Bradford might have a couple of mediocre seasons left in him, but he isn’t moblie, and he drops like a rock whenever someone touches him in the pocket. While I’m not convinced that Teddy is the future, I do think he would be more than a formidable backup. If this Vikings season taught us anything it’s that it’s always good to have a solid backup QB. Bridgewater is coming off a very serious injury and his health is in dire question. This sucks for Teddy but bodes well for the Vikings because they can hopefully sign Teddy to a cheap, short-term deal.
Spielman seems like a smart guy, so he will probably agree with me. This decision, if you break it down to its simplest form, is not a hard one. If the Vikings think that they have a franchise QB in Keenum, they need to pay him. He doesn’t even need to be a Rodgers/Brady/Drew Brees type of franchise QB that will win you games with his arm, rather one that keeps the defense off the field and protects the ball. Keep in mind that Case is still a relatively young guy. He’s only 29 years old and in his sixth year in the league. He is just about to enter his prime and can still develop into the QB that will win you games with his arm. Remember Russell Wilson‘s first few years with the Seattle Seahawks? He relied heavily on his defense and Marshawn Lynch his first few seasons. Now he’s winning games damn near by himself.
There are reports that Keenum could command as much as $15 million a year. That’s less money than Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Brock Osweiler and Ryan Tannehill make per season. The price needs to be right for the Vikings, and I think $15 million a year is a fair price due to the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL. The Vikings are sitting pretty as they try to make a deep playoff run, which they hope ends by playing in front of a home crowd in Super Bowl LII. Keenum has gotten them a first-round bye, and are the favorites to come out of the NFC. He is displaying that he is the QB that can win now which is what the Vikings need. This is my Case for Keenum.