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The Kirk Cousins sweepstakes has begun, and it appears the Vikings are one of the players...

The Vikings have begun the off-season addressing their biggest off-season question. Who will be under center for 2018, and potentially beyond? The only quarterback under contract in 2018 is Kyle Sloter, and he isn't in the conversation for the starting job.

NFL media insider Ian Rapoport has dropped two Vikings quarterback related tweets over the last day. Yesterday, he reported on Case Keenum, who lead the Vikings to the conference championship.

Ian Rapoport

This does not signify the Vikings have completely moved on from Keenum, but that they are willing to let him test the market before making an offer. It is hard to see Keenum being the signal caller in 2018 with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer unwilling to name him the starter. There are not many situations that the starting quarterback remains the starter without full confidence of the head coach publicly.

The next domino that fell came early Tuesday morning from Rapoport. Teddy Bridgewater, who was facing a contract tolling situation, has finally gotten an answer.

Ian Rapoport

Similar to Keenum, the Vikings can still resign Bridgewater.

Reports have surfaced of the Vikings interested in former Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins had a great year in 2015, and took a slight step back in 2017, but overall an upgrade from Case Keenum.

The situation has become...weird, to say the least. Several prominent members of the national media have reported the Vikings are interested in Cousins, and want to pursue him. General Manager Rick Spielman has never been one to show his cards, and would never need to publicly say he was interested.

Spielman has been the Vikings Manager since 2012, and he is not new to the poker game that is the off-season. Spielman can call GMs, agents, scouts at any time to get the information he needs about Cousins. The only person who stands anything to gain from multiple teams showing interested in Kirk Cousins is Kirk Cousins.

During the Super Bowl media sessions, Adam Thielen named Kirk Cousins as someone the Vikings could pursue. This seemed highly unusual for a player to name another quarterback for their team to bring in. Players are coached what to say, and more importantly what not to say publicly. It would be rare for a player to make a mistake like that amid the current quarterback drama. Thielen was likely told to name Cousins, and to do it in a way that seemed organic. A wide receiver of his caliber likely does not care who is under center, as long as they can play well enough to help the team win.

This sheds light on the next part of the hypothesis, maybe the Vikings do not want Cousins, but Keenum and Bridgewater. It benefits the Vikings to manipulate the desperation of other quarterback needy teams. If the Vikings can feint interest enough in Cousins, that could drive other teams to increase their offers to land Cousins services. The Vikings will fold their hand on Cousins under the guise they got out bidded.

It would not be surprising for the Vikings to show “interest” in Bradford in the coming weeks to further this strategy.

The next part is a bit tricky though, but if done right could be what the Vikings want all along. The Vikings could potentially have a winning hand, they can't show with Bridgewater. If Bridgewater is healthy, and looks like he could play at a high level, the Vikings will want to downplay it. They will want to make it seem as if Bridgewater is damaged goods, and they do not really want him, thus letting him "test the market." Teams will then undercut Bridgewater, and the Vikings will swoop in with a better hand(the one they were always going to play), and win the pot. They could do the same with Keenum if they want the two to have a camp battle.

Of course this could all be wrong, and it may be true the Vikings are interested in Cousins, and want him to be their franchise quarterback. The off-season has barely started and the poker game is starting to intensify. The Vikings could have the winning hand from the very start.