It is to no avail that the Jets will need to weigh their options at quarterback this off-season. In many ways, they are fortunate in the scenario they have landed in. Free agency may present some top-tier quarterback talent, and the Jets should have enough money to arouse each and every single option. The NFL Draft is also perceived to be quite quarterback friendly with a projected 4-5 pass-makers being first round compatible.
So while the Jets fight and claw their way through free agency, and measure out their next gamble in the draft, it only seems right to speculate on what could be. Many would be pleased with the Jets making a push for Kirk Cousins, who is seen to be the most tempting option available on the market. And while the Jets could (and should) make a run for him, their competition in that realm will be tough to beat. It will be important for the Jets to keep their share of side-negotiations ongoing, rather than settle for someone less prominent when/if Cousins signs elsewhere.
Earlier in the season, many would expect Case Keenum to be one of those fall back options. His NFL career doesn’t make you blink twice, and any team putting money on his plate would likely be one that lost out on someone like Cousins. But fast forward to the concluding moments of the 2017-18 season, and it’s easy to see that Keenum has skyrocketed his worth. He’s led the once turmoil-tied Vikings to the NFC Championship game and is now looking more competent than ever.
The Case for Keenum
The Vikings will face a Jet-like dilemma come the off-season. Three quarterbacks on their current roster in Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are all expected to be free agents. That being said, the likelihood of the Vikings holding onto them all is slim to none. They’ll need to be weighing their options similarly to that of the Jets.
However, the Vikings are a team still well and alive. A Super Bowl may almost certainly solidify Keenum as the future option in Minnesota, but anything short of that leaves the door wide open.
Using some questionable preconception, let’s assume Keenum hits the market with a sign that reads, “Someone pay me.” The Vikings, more anxious to see what they have in Bridgewater, let Keenum walk the plank. Would this hypothetical situation be a blessing in disguise for the Jets?
It certainly could be. With higher stakes and competition engulfed in the race for Kirk Cousins, the Jets could quietly find someone with a similar caliber in Keenum. Just look at their career and season numbers:
Obviously, there’s some major differences between the two. Keenum has never started a full season at quarterback, and his numbers previous to 2017 can be quite disturbing. But the most interesting aspect may be how similar their 2017 campaigns were. The two finished with nearly identical completion, touchdown and interception percentages.
Now that’s not to say that they would be equal options for the Jets’ future plans. In all reality, no one knows who would be. Some would argue Cousins for his consistency and athleticism presented year after year, while others could be swayed to Keenum for his most recent success.
And if stats cannot be the ultimate deciding factor, could money? Cousins will be looking to sign one of the highest contracts for a 30-year old quarterback ever. The Jets could pay him, but how much would that affect other free agent negotiations?
Keenum’s asking price will be slightly higher than most expect as well. However, his reduced price compared to that of Cousins could give the Jets just a little more wiggle room in their free agent scavenger hunt.
Could the Case be a Fluke?
The most surprising aspect of Keenum’s recent success is just that. Why is he having so much success now, six years into his NFL career?
Keenum’s road to success was opened through the Vikings’ recent string of suffering. The team had lost both Bridgewater and Bradford to injury, and were left with nothing but the remains of a journeyman. Luckily for Minnesota, the team was loaded with talent, and that made Keenum into an instant star.
Hell, it even made Bradford look like a star during his time before injury. And for some reason there continues to be this looming thought that anyone could be thrown in at QB, and they’d find immediate success in Minnesota.
What a difference a year makes:
From 2014-2016, Nick Foles, Case Keenum, and Blake Bortles ranked in the Bottom 5 in passer rating as a starter among 36 QBs with 15+ starts in that span.
All 3 will start in a conference championship game this Sunday. pic.twitter.com/4J7ffYPgUn
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 16, 2018
It becomes more of a reality with the Vikings’ lack of permanence in their star. Earlier in the year, the team was inconsistent about naming a starter despite Keenum’s up and coming. Now, with the possibility that they let him walk, it becomes clear that Minnesota may not be so high on Keenum themselves. They likely realize they have two others who have seen similar success in the not-so-distant past. And heck, those guys were the starters to begin with.
All of this speculation makes Keenum a risky grab in free agency. No doubt someone will sign him to the contract that he demands, but it begs the question as to whether he has been a product of the team, or vice versa.
Case Closed (Not Really)
Widening the scope beyond the needs of the Jets, it is evident that many teams on the cusp of playoff contention will be in the hunt for a QB this off-season.
Keenum, like Cousins, will now be at the front of the line for a hefty payday. After a career of inept performance, his recent stardom could propel him to the vault of many NFL teams.
It will be impossible to know how Keenum could perform elsewhere until, well, he gets there. However, that stands true for the many other quarterbacks hitting the free agent market. Time and time again, teams come to realize that these once wielding quarterbacks are truly only a product of a talented team. The Jets have witnessed this first hand with the great Brett Favre.
However, the Jets certainly have the potential to be a team submerged in talent. With a defense on the rise, and an offensive guaranteed to be redefined this off-season, Keenum’s one time hoorah could be multiplied. His career and playoff experience could also give the Jets some further stability when/if they draft a quarterback with the 6th overall pick.