The 2017 season for the Minnesota Vikings was a hell of a fun season...until the very end, anyway. After injuries to Teddy Bridgewater in 2016, Sam Bradford in week one, and phenom rookie RB Dalvin Cook in week four, the team rallied under Case Keenum and made it all the way to the NFC Championship, with the help of a stifling defense and a miracle.
Keenum had a very effective year, and the Vikings had a choice to make at the QB spot: Teddy Bridgewater, who was back from his career altering knee injury, Keenum, who came out of nowhere and had a career season, or someone else. I said throughout 2017 that one of either Bradford, Keenum, or Bridgewater would be the Vikings QB in 2018.
I was wrong. This is reason 9,407 as to why you should never pay attention to anything I read or write, but please finish this piece before you quit me.
What I thought would happen was this: The Vikings would sign both Bridgewater and Keenum to one or two year deals, let them battle it out in training camp, and may the best man win. Assuming there was a fair competition and the best guy really did win the job, the locker room would rally behind the starter, whoever that was. It really seemed that the players liked and respected both guys (not that they or I didn’t like Sam Bradford, but his injury history was a big ‘No’ for me in terms of him coming back), and as much as both Keenum and Bridgewater supported each other, a locker room fracture seemed like a remote possibility regardless of who the starting QB was.
The Vikings, though, had other plans. They let both Keenum and Bridgewater walk, and signed Big Ticket Free Agent Kirk Cousins.
But what happens if they had kept Keenum? Let’s explore that one.
In our alternate universe, Keenum and Bridgewater are both on one or two year ‘prove it’ deals, and I would imagine that the combined contracts would have been less than the Cousins contract. For example, when Keenum signed with Denver, it was a 2 year $36 million dollar deal with a $15 million cap hit in 2018. Bridgewater had $2.2 million cap hit, so the two combined deals were more than $10 million less than the Cousins deal. If I was Rick Spielman, and in this scenario I am so just bear with me, I would make the promise that if the guy that lost the job would want to be traded to try and win a starting job, I would do my utmost to make that happen.
Keenum and Bridgewater enter training camp last year and battle it out for starting QB. I think you can make really solid arguments for either player to win the job, and let’s say the starter ends up getting a contract extension. But how does that ripple across the rest of the NFL?
Well, Case Keenum doesn’t go to Denver, Cousins doesn’t come to the Vikings, and Teddy doesn’t go to New Orleans. Let’s say Cousins takes the most money offered from the Jets and goes there. They no longer draft Sam Darnold, and the Broncos could have very well moved up in the draft to get him.
How do the Vikes do on the field? I don’t know. If Pat Shurmur had returned I think the offense is still pretty good, and the Vikes have a really good 2018. The John DeFilippo fiasco really makes it hard to determine, but at a minimum, I don’t think they’re worse than 8-7-1. But you could make an argument they would have been based on the play of the offensive line and the disappearing act the running game had.
As far as their new look roster, whoever loses out on the starting QB job gets traded, and maybe the Vikings get a decent pick in return. They also don’t have the cap issues they’re currently dealing with, and instead of signing Cousins, maybe they get a top shelf offensive lineman in free agency either last year or this year. If that happens, do they draft Garrett Bradbury or Dru Samia? They also have enough money to retain Sheldon Richardson if they wanted to, so does he come back?
The Vikings have had several ‘what if’ moments in their history regarding their choices in quarterback. It began with the Fran Tarkenton trade to the Giants and the Joe Kapp contract impasse and trade back in the 1960’s, to Sean Salisbury over Rich Gannon in the early 1990’s, and then Brad Johnson or Randall Cunningham after the 1998 season. Each time, whatever the choice the Vikings made was franchise altering.
Only time will tell how the Keenum/Bridgewater/Cousins choice plays out.