As the final seconds dwindled down in the Championship Game loss to the Eagles, Viking fans started to think about the future. Specifically, what is the quarterback room going to look like next season when all are not under contract? Let’s take a detailed look at every possibility the Vikings can attack in terms of finding their quarterback for 2018.
The 38-7 loss is still fresh in the mind of the Vikings fanbase, but Keenum was not the sole reason for the beatdown in Philadelphia. Sure, he did not play his best game, but a lack of protection and spotty defense were the true catalysts of this loss. Going into free agency, Keenum is an interesting name to watch. It is no secret that he had his best season as a pro with the Vikings, and you would think that he feels a level of comfort with this staff. However, former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is heading to the New York Giants to become their head coach. Reports are also that Shurmur’s plan is to keep Eli Manning as their quarterback there, meaning Keenum would not be a logical fit.
Keenum’s value is tough to gauge at this point. We have seen in the past teams are willing to overpay for journeyman quarterbacks, with huge deals going to the likes of Matt Flynn and Mike Glennon. Chances are the Vikings are willing to negotiate with the quarterback who led them on a deep playoff run. But it will have to be at the right price. If they can lock him in for an extension in the $10-12 million range, the Vikings would feel comfortable doing that.
However, if it becomes a bidding war and teams are reportedly offering closer to $20 million per year, the Vikings will likely back away from Keenum. Another possibility is franchise tagging Keenum, which would cost close to $20 million next year. With the amount of free agents the Vikings staff has, I cannot see them getting into a bidding war for Keenum’s services.
Bradford has always been a polarizing quarterback for the Vikings. In his history in the NFL, he has shown to be accurate and a quarterback that can throw the deep ball with success. However, his health has always been the question and it was no different this season as he went down with another leg injury. One of the surprises of the playoffs though was that Zimmer and the staff decided to have Bradford as the backup quarterback and list Teddy Bridgewater as inactive. The reasoning of this, according to Zimmer, was that Bradford is the best passer on the roster and they would have him come in if they need to complete a comeback from a large deficit.
Going into the offseason, it is doubtful even the Vikings know what the market will be for Bradford. Is a team willing to give him upwards of $15 million per year and just pray he can survive a full season? All the traits of a great quarterback are there, but how much money can you give one that has not proven he can stay healthy? For the Vikings, the value just is not there. They are a contender now, and putting all of the eggs in the basket of a health concern is a waste of a window. As a lot of reporters and fans said when Bradford went down, he has played his last down as a Viking.
Keenum’s free agency might be the most polarizing quarterback to watch, but Bridgewater’s will most likely be the one Viking fans are most invested in. Bridgewater was drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft to be the franchise. He became a fan favorite immediately due to his hard work and infectious attitude. After he went down with the gruesome injury in training camp of 2015, he became almost untouchable in terms of fan love. He worked his tail off to get back this season and even managed to get a few live game snaps under his belt in a blowout win over Cincinnati. After this Bengals game, Bridgewater did not see the field again. The lack of recent playing time is what makes this potential free agency so intriguing. The fans, the staff and especially Mike Zimmer have invested so much into Bridgewater that it seems hard to imagine they just let him walk.
If they do, however, teams like the Jaguars and the Dolphins may look at him in free agency. But what are they comfortable paying? Ideally, the best move for Bridgewater would be to take a one year prove-it deal. After that, he can enter free agency next season with more experience and more confidence, theoretically. The Vikings, however, know better than any other team where he is, health-wise. Therefore, a prove-it deal may not be something they entertain. If I were to predict, a safe bet would be the Vikings sign Bridgewater in the $10 million range and give him the opportunity to compete for the starting job.
Going into the season, the Vikings had three quarterbacks in Keenum, Braford, and Bridgwater. They knew Bridgewater was not going to be ready for a while and after Bradford went down, there was a need for a back up quarterback. After plucking Sloter from the Broncos practice squad, the Vikings staff quickly found out that they may have found an uncovered gem. In fact, the Vikings staff felt so highly about Sloter that they considered cutting him to make room for another player. The staff realized he would not make it to their practice squad if they cut him.
The Vikings found out that Sloter has some upside and could become a contributor. Even some Broncos media said that Sloter may have been started a few gamese in 2017, the way their quarterback situation went. Sloter is under a non-guaranteed contract with Minnesota, so he is likely to return. He would likely be the backup in 2018, at least in the interim.
So, going into this offseason, the Vikings will have to make a decision on all four of the above quarterbacks. However, for the sake of this article, let’s also take a look at other possibilities for the Vikings 2018 quarterbacks in terms of free agency and the NFL draft.
Continue on next page.