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Reassessing the Vikings QB Situation

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NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Teddy Bridgewater has officially been activated from the PUP list, and Sam Bradford put on IR, with a possible return in the post-season, let’s reassess the Vikings QB situation, and look at what makes sense going forward.

Starting Case Keenum

Mike Zimmer, in his press conference today said that Case Keenum would start against the Redskins, and Bridgewater would be his backup, as he would only have two QBs active for the game. This makes immediate sense as Keenum has played reasonably well, while Bridgewater hasn’t played a regular season game in nearly two years.

Let’s also take a look at both QBs most recent work- Teddy in 2015, and Keenum this year. Here are their stats:

Looking back to pre-season 2016, before Teddy got hurt, the hope and expectation was that Bridgewater would take the next step forward in his development. There were signs that his deep ball accuracy - which had been lacking - was improving. Another area for improvement was to get the ball out faster.

In 2015, Bridgewater was the 3rd slowest QB in the league in his time to throw. Behind a sub-par offensive line, but not as bad as the 2016 offensive line, that led to a very high 9% sack rate. By contrast Sam Bradford had a 6.3% sack rate in 2016, behind a much worse offensive line, because he was able to get the ball out quicker.

This year, with an improved offensive line, reasonably quick time to throw, and good mobility/pocket awareness, Keenum has the lowest sack rate in the league. Bridgewater would also benefit from the improved offensive line, but it remains to be seen whether he could be as quick making his progressions, avoiding pressure, and getting the ball out as Keenum. Not having played in a regular season game in nearly two years, I don’t think that’s realistic for Bridgewater coming in mid-season. That extra time would put added pressure on the offensive line, and result in more negative plays.

In any case, based on actual game performance, there is nothing to suggest Bridgewater would be an immediate improvement over Keenum. Keenum also has more experience reading defenses and audibling at the line of scrimmage, which is an important asset as well. That being the case, the focus for Pat Shurmur should be on how to get the most from a Keenum-led offense, rather than switching horses mid-stream. Of course if Keenum falters, and plays notably worse and begins costing the Vikings games, that’s another story. But right now, Keenum has the 4th highest QBR in the league among active QBs, so there is a reason to keep rolling with him.

2018 Competition

Looking beyond this season, the only QB the Vikings currently have under contract is Kyle Sloter. That’s a problem. The Vikings have indicated that they won’t toll Bridgewater’s contract if he plays this season, which is the right thing to do. But if he doesn’t, it makes sense to toll it and have him compete for the starting job next year. But it should be a competition. Particularly if Keenum is able to lead the Vikings offense into the post-season. It’s clear that the team likes both QBs, and having them both on the roster next year makes sense. The problem is working a deal with Keenum. If he finishes strong, he’ll likely demand a starting QB deal, which puts the Vikings in a bind if they want to keep Bridgewater past 2018. That’s a tough situation. Franchise-tagging him, if Bridgewater’s contract is tolled, may pay him more than his market value. There’s no easy solution.

And then there’s Kyle Sloter, whom the Vikings paid heavily to acquire, gave a roster spot to keep, and declined multiple trade inquiries prior to the trade deadline. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he could step up and compete for the starting job, or more likely the backup spot, next year.

There is also Sam Bradford. The Vikings could franchise tag him as well, if they wanted to keep him next year, and who could still come back in the post-season this year. But given his durability issues, it’s difficult to include him in any longer-term plans, or contract, given the type of salary he may command. It may also be that given his durability issues, his market value has gone down considerably too. I can’t see a team paying him $25 million next year not knowing if he’ll last more than a game or two. There seems always a team with a bad QB situation desperate enough to take a chance, but not sure given Bradford’s circumstances if it will happen with him next year. In any case, with Bridgewater, Keenum and Sloter to consider, I’m not sure the Vikings will be able or willing to keep Bradford on the roster next season.

Bottom Line

With Bradford looking increasingly out of the picture next year, the competition will likely be between Bridgewater and Keenum for the starting QB spot. But for that to happen, the Vikings will first have to extend Keenum’s contract. If Bridgewater’s contract is tolled, that makes it a bit easier to sign Keenum for next season, but what if Keenum wants a longer term deal? Do the Vikings just go with Bridgewater, not knowing for sure if he’ll be the better choice? I expect the Vikings may look to have Sloter be the primary backup next season, but what if Keenum takes the Vikings deep into the post-season? Could Bridgewater end-up the odd man out?

Bridgewater may be back on the active roster, but it’s Case Keenum who is playing for keeps right now. Every game is a big one for him now, with Bridgewater behind him.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

Poll

If Case Keenum leads the Vikings to the post-season, should the Vikings sign him to a starting QB contract?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Yes - he’s doing the job asked of him
    (1190 votes)
  • 54%
    No - Teddy’s our guy no matter what
    (1450 votes)
2640 votes total Vote Now