The 2018 NFL offseason could mark unprecedented movement -- or at least availability -- at the quarterback position, especially among veteran free agents, whereof starting-caliber signal-callers set to hit the open market.
Already handsomely paid from his time with the Washington Redskins, Cousins is the apparent belle of the ball entering March, and just so happens to be a team with maybe the most question marks of anyone in the league: the defending NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings.
Fresh off a surprise run to the NFC title game, the Vikes have not one, or even two, but three different veteran quarterbacks set to hit free agency on March 14. And as the NFL's legal tampering period, in which teams are permitted to negotiate with unrestricted free agents, fast approaches, it appears Minnesota isn't overly committed to any of their noted signal-callers.
NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports HQ this week that he "would not rule out them putting a tag of some sort on Case Keenum," the backup-turned-starter who turned in a Pro Bowl-caliber year at age 30. But he also noted that the Vikings don't intend to use their franchise tag in that regard, that he doesn't see Week 1 starter Sam Bradford back "in any circumstance," and that former first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater, once seen as the Vikings' future at QB, won't find a "very deep market" outside of Minnesota.
In English? The Vikings may or may not have any clue as to how their 2018 QB room will look, and neither does anyone else. Until the bidding war begins for Cousins and the free-agent dominoes fall, everything is on the table, especially with Minnesota electing not to make any decisions ahead of time.
With that, we did what any good pre-free agency piece does: We predicted the unpredictable. Here's a stab at where all three soon-to-be unsigned Vikings quarterbacks will land:
Case Keenum: Vikings
The idea of Keenum Eli Manning and could very well make a top-five draft pick at QB. And the thinking here is that, after the Cousins market heats up and teams like the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets start offering upfront cash by the planeload, the Vikings will be content calling Keenum their guy, at least on a two- or three-year pact.with Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur seemed nice until Shurmur went to a team that still owns
Minnesota can obviously sell itself pretty well to Cousins, and maybe Kirk takes a smaller bite out of the money apple just to come to a contender. But once the market actually opens, can Minnesota sell Cousins to itself as being worth at least $10 million more per season than Keenum, who just got done captaining an NFC Championship run? Keenum endeared himself to the Minnesota fan base with his grit and his durability in 2017, and he'd be happy to return. Even if it's a little begrudgingly at first, the Vikings would be happy about it, too.
Sam Bradford: Broncos
If there's one thing that's clear about the muddled QB picture in Minnesota, it's probably that Bradford is on the way out. The Vikings paid a steep price for him eight days before the 2016 season, and he proceeded to play one of his best seasons that fall, especially considering the circumstances. But the ex-No. 1 pick's career is also synonymous with injuries, and the Vikings simply can't afford to rely on his health for the entire 2018 season. That leads us to free agency, which Bradford almost has to enter knowing he can no longer hold out for guaranteed anything as long as he.
Cleveland has the cap space to bait him with what could be his last big-money deal, and the Buffalo Bills make for a potential fit if they do, in fact, . But Denver is, quietly, the perfect landing spot -- more so for Bradford, but nice enough for the Broncos, too. John Elway is apparently bent on fixing his team's mediocre QB room and fixing it fast, and Bradford doesn't exactly scream "instant, elite upgrade," but this is a guy the Broncos in 2016. As long as he's healthy, Bradford, who'd also prefer being closer to home in Oklahoma, is a high-upside bridge option. And with a top-five draft pick, Elway could double dip on QBs without breaking the bank for Cousins.
Teddy Bridgewater: Cardinals
Bridgewater staying in Minnesota, reclaiming the starting job he held from 2014-15 and vindicating all of Mike Zimmer's effusive praise would be a nice story, and it's not all that unfeasible. As La Canfora said, the market for a still-somewhat-unproven quarterback who's thrown all of two passes since January 2016 shouldn't be terribly hot, and that's not even mentioning a.) that his reconstructed knee may or may not hold up over the long term and b.) the fact that Bridgewater's numbers as a "franchise" QB were still rather pedestrian before he went down. So, theoretically, it wouldn't cost the Vikings much to re-up him for his potential.
If Keenum does re-sign, though, what are the chances he re-signs knowing he isn't at least a little more locked into the No. 1 job? An open competition isn't out of the realm of possibility, but after Keenum's unofficial embrace of that team leader role down the stretch of 2017, it seems less likely that Teddy would be anything but an insurance plan for at least another year. That brings us to Arizona, where Bridgewater might find his best, if not his only, chance at being both an immediate starter and a candidate for a long-term role -- the ultimate low-risk, high-upside addition for a roster that still possesses other offensive weapons.