One week from today, teams across the National Football League will be able to start using Franchise and Transition Player tags on players that are facing free agency. While we don’t know yet whether or not the Minnesota Vikings will do that with quarterback Case Keenum, Matthew Coller from 1500 ESPN has presented a scenario that, to be honest, I hadn’t really thought of.
Would the Vikings consider using the tag on Keenum just to trade him away to someone else?
Coller cites an example from the 2008 season, when a spry young quarterback by the name of Matt Cassel was serving as Tom Brady’s backup with the New England Patriots. Brady tore his ACL in the Patriots’ first game that season, and Cassel wound up starting 15 games. Under Cassel, the Patriots went 10-5, and Cassel put up numbers that weren’t that far off from what Keenum did this year in his 14.5 games.
The Patriots knew that Brady would be back to start the 2009 season, but Cassel was facing free agency. So, the Patriots put the franchise tag on him, and then proceeded to trade him to the Kansas City Chiefs for the second pick in the second round.
As Coller points out, if the Vikings were to just let Keenum walk via free agency, they would likely be in line for a third-round compensatory pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, if the Vikings put the tag on him and attempted to deal him, they could possibly get themselves a pick in this draft (where they’re already two picks short because of trades).
The free agent pool at the quarterback position this year is. . .lacking, to put it politely. If you cede that Kirk Cousins is going to be the #1 unrestricted free agent available at the position, you could make a fairly reasonable argument that the Vikings have the #2, #3, and #4 guys on the list in Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater (in whatever order your personal biases want to place them in). After that, it’s a pretty significant drop-off to guys like Josh McCown and. . .yeesh. . .Geno Smith. Sure, A.J. McCarron of the Bengals is going to be a restricted free agent, but with him being an RFA you’re going to end up coughing up draft capital for him anyway. If you’re going to do that, you could just as well look into doing it for Keenum, too.
There are plenty of teams that could, potentially, be looking for a quarterback. There are teams like the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets, and the Arizona Cardinals might be looking for a more veteran presence at the position rather than rolling the dice on a younger quarterback to step into the breach right away. For the teams that lose out on the Cousins sweepstakes, ensuring that they could secure Keenum’s services might be something they’re willing to pay a premium price for.
I’m not sure if the Vikings trading Case Keenum after putting the franchise tag on him is something that’s a realistic expectation, or if it’s something the Vikings would even consider. But given that I hadn’t really thought of it prior to now, or not given it any serious thought, at the very least, it’s not as though there isn’t a precedent for it to happen.