As the Vikings offseason gets rolling, there is nothing fans and media love to speculate on more than the team’s quarterback situation.
I have been covering the Vikings since Day 1, and no quarterback has had more speculation about his performance than Case Keenum. From the day he became the Vikings’ starter and throughout an incredible regular season, coach Mike Zimmer would be asked every week who his starting quarterback was going to be.
Then the second the season ended, the question became whether or not Keenum was going to get a franchise tag.
And now people seem to think that just because it’s being reported that Keenum won’t be tagged, for some reason means he won’t be back with the Vikings. That’s just not true.
Rest assured that the Wilf family wants to keep on winning, and that means the Vikings ownership will help General Manager Rick Spielman get any quarterback he wants. And if you want my opinion, it’s Keenum — and not the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins, or any other quarterback.
Zimmer on Thursday put a big damper on all of the Cousins talk when he said that if he had his wish, he would just bring back all three quarterbacks from last season.
“These kids have busted their rear ends for however number of years — some of them four, some of them two, some of them one,” he said. “They know how we do things now and I think it’s important for the culture of this franchise and the culture of this organization.
“But, again, it’s going to come down to financial things, financial for them, and maybe some of them don’t get to free agency. We’ve still got some time. I know there’s a lot of rumors and a lot of different things going on out there, but don’t believe everything you hear — unless it’s from me.”
Last season Keenum ranked as the second-best quarterback in the NFL behind only Carson Wentz of the Eagles, according to ESPN. Keenum completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven picks. His quarterback rating of 98.3 landed at seventh in the NFL, right ahead of Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, who missed most of the season.
Keenum and his wife love it in Minnesota. He made it very clear when the season ended that if things could work out financially, he definitely wants to end his career here.
Futhermore, during the season he told close friends, such as his former Houston coach, Tony Levine, who is now at Purdue, and other friends how this has been a dream come true.
While Zimmer pointed out that Sam Bradford remains a question mark because of his health, it sure sounds like if the financial scenario worked out, having Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater battling for the starting spot would be his wish.
Steady locker room
Another factor that has to be considered is that receivers Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, tight end Kyle Rudolph and other favorite offensive weapons have made it clear that they’re hoping that Keenum comes back.
The locker room next season could be very sad if the Vikings don’t make a strong bid to bring him back. The camaraderie in the locker room during the 2017 season was talked about often by Zimmer, and he said he had never seen a group like those Vikings.
I have spent a lot of time in that locker room over the years, and without a doubt Keenum was one of the most popular players to ever put on a Vikings uniform.
He was loved by every single player, and they sang his praises time after time. For Spielman to bring in another quarterback, when these players have so much confidence in Keenum, would be a big error.
I don’t think there’s any chance of Keenum not coming back, unless his agent makes impossible demands. I also think Keenum will be receptive to a long-term contract that pays him on the basis of how he performed last year.
Once they sign Keenum for a long-term deal, the Vikings quarterback problems — which have been an absolute disaster with 13 starting quarterbacks over nine seasons — might actually get solved.
And after completing the Minneapolis Miracle throw to Diggs in the playoff game against New Orleans, there’s no doubt that Keenum has become a fan favorite.
The Vikings have raised ticket prices for next season, and they need not only good players but good storylines heading into the season. Keenum would provide both.
Other QB questions
Meanwhile, when it comes to Bridgewater, he simply hasn’t yet shown how he can perform on the field. He hasn’t been hit one time since coming back from his knee injury. And while it hasn’t been announced yet whether or not he will become a free agent, Zimmer talked before the NFL combine about how difficult Bridegwater’s recovery has been and how well he has done so far.
“There was 24 of these similar types of injuries through all sports, half of them never came back, ” Zimmer said. “I think the earliest one that anybody ever came back was 24 months. So, for him to even get to that point where he was and be able to come out and practice and compete in a game was a true credit to him.”
There have been rumors of Bridgewater signing with his hometown Miami Dolphins, who would take him on as a backup quarterback.
But maybe the Vikings could make just as good a pitch to Bridgewater to come and back up Keenum this season as he continues to get back to full health.
In Bridgewater’s last full season in 2015, when he led the Vikings to a NFC North title. He put up great numbers, comparable to Keenum. He completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 3,231 yards with 14 scores and nine picks. But it remains to be seen if his health can hold up to the rigors of a full season.
When it comes to Bradford, the Vikings aren’t going to pay him big money unless he signs some kind of a contract filled with performance incentives. After two knee surgeries, the odds are not great that Bradford will be back in Minnesota.
There’s no doubt that the Vikings’ three quarterbacks are going to get positions in 2018, but I still think the team is going to look to make Keenum their long-term solution at quarterback.
Zimmer on Thursday gave no endorsements of Cousins or the idea of paying a quarterback big money. That should tell you a lot about where the team is heading.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • firstname.lastname@example.org