Upon the completion of the 2017 NFL season, we will see many NFL players across every position eligible for free agency. One of the most unique free agent situations we’ve ever seen, possibly ever, will unfold in Minnesota this year. The Vikings, coming off their loss in the NFC championship game as the #2 seed, will not have a quarterback on their roster when free agency begins. That is because the contracts of Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Bradford expire at season’s end. While the internet is full of speculation about who they should keep and who they should let go, as of this writing, no news one way or the other has leaked from the Vikings’ front office or coaching staff. Each Quarterback has supporters, and each has detractors, but after looking at the numbers, I believe Keenum is the best choice for the team going forward.
Bradford was the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft and has largely underperformed his draft stock. This is mostly due to injury, as Bradford has only managed to play a full 16 games twice in his career. He has looked good for stretches but has never been able to combine looking good and staying healthy and is almost guaranteed to be with another team in 2018. The Vikings really have no attachment to Bradford and there is no significant reason they would want him to lead them in 2018.
Bridgewater, on the other hand, is a fan favorite of many Vikings’ fans and the player they most want to take over at quarterback. The Vikings drafted Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft after they traded up to select him. He was eventually named the starting quarterback during the 2014 season and remained the starter through 2015. During that time, his numbers were not very impressive. In two years as starting quarterback, he’s thrown 28 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He’s only thrown for over 6100 yards with a 64.7 completion percentage and hasn’t done anything to warrant the Vikings handing him the job in 2019. Bridgewater has said he definitely sees himself as an NFL starter next season, but the question is: Do the Vikings see him that way? They’ve invested the draft capital in him and stood by him through his horrendous knee injury that took away his entire 2016 season, but it will probably come down to his contract demands. It’s hard to pay starter money to an unproven QB with a shaky track-record on the field and questionable knee stability. It should also be noted that when Sam Bradford returned from injury in the playoffs, it was Bridgewater who Vikings’ coaches decided was the healthy scratch on game days, that should be telling.
This brings us to Keenum. He has his own detractors, and many believe if you read between the lines all season, Vikings’ Head Coach Mike Zimmer is one of them. I can’t disagree that Zimmer doesn’t appear to be a fan, and I’m not alone. Looking at Keenum’s season, it’s hard to imagine a world where they wouldn’t want him back as the starter next year and beyond. He amassed over 3500 yards, threw 22 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions and had a 67.6 completion percentage while leading the team to the NFC’s 2nd seed and an appearance in the NFC title game. What’s not to like? Although those numbers and results are the outliers when looking at his career numbers until this season, there is a history of Keenum doing well. Statistically speaking, he is arguably one of the best college football quarterbacks of all time. Yeah, yeah, he benefited from the system he played in at Houston, I get it, but he still wrapped up his college career with an obscene amount of passing records.
Keenum played for the University of Houston from 2007 through 2011 and by the time he was done, he left school as the all-time NCAA leader in passing yards (19,217- nearly 2,200 yards ahead of 2nd place), completions (1,546- 140 more than 2nd place) and passing touchdowns (155- 13 more than 2nd place). He is also 6th all-time in completion percentage and holds 2- of the top 4- single-season yardage totals as well. Even if he was a “system guy” in college, he was possibly the greatest one in history. The pedigree is there, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him finally “click” at the NFL level after bouncing around for a few seasons and getting his feet wet while adapting to the nuances of the NFL game.
2018 Free Agent Quarterback Crop
The Vikings really need to bring back one of the players they already have in-house, because this is a bad crop of free agents at quarterback this year. Aside from all three of the Vike’s signal callers, the only desirable quarterbacks are Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo… and to a very distant, lesser extent, Jay Cutler. And let’s be honest, Brees & Jimmy G are resigning with their current teams. Once they’ve decided between Bridgewater and Keenum, they need to commit an offer fast, and odds are somebody else is going to quickly scoop up the player they let go (and probably Bradford too). Bridgewater made $1.7million dollars last year and Keenum made $2million. You’d have to assume they’re both going to want a sizable increase in pay next year, but only Keenum has earned it with his play on the field and that’s why he should be their choice going forward.
How does all this translate for fantasy owners?
Keenum was QB14 last year, with approximately 230 points. It was clearly his best season as a pro. In 2016, Sam Bradford also saw his most productive season as a pro, but he only accumulated approximately 210 points. Bridgewater started the trend by having his best season as a pro in 2015, but he barely topped 200 fantasy points. Have we seen the ceiling of all of them over the last three seasons? For Bradford, that answer is most likely, “yes.” Regarding Keenum, it’s probably “yes” too, but there is a chance he could still progress and his rapport with Adam Thielen can’t be denied. As for Teddy B, the case can be made that he’s barely scratched the surface of his potential. The case can also be made that he hasn’t really wowed anyone when he was on the field and the knee injury might never let him progress beyond what we saw in 2015. Regardless of what the Vikings decide to do this offseason, all three quarterbacks should be on your radar as all three are likely opening day starters in 2018, but only one will still be in Minnesota.