Every NFL offseason brings plenty of change for all 32 franchises. While these changes will mainly occur between March 9 (NFL Free Agency opens) and April 29 (last day of NFL Draft), it is easy to overlook the importance of the very end of a league year; the re-signing period. This season, Vikings fans can breathe a sigh of relief as there are very few key players on the list of potential free agents. Only the quarterback position brings uncertainty.
Here are the positives and negatives for every Vikings free agent and what Minnesota should do with their expired contracts.
Another year, another Vikings offseason with all eyes on the quarterback position. However, this time around is a little different. Minnesota fans are used to wondering who the quarterback will be the following season. They still are, but this time the list is not as lengthy. The Vikings are fortunate enough to have three quality starting quarterbacks on the roster, all of whom have contracts expiring this year.
It is decision time in Minneapolis.
The best all-around passer on the team, Bradford would be the obvious option if it were not for his age, injury history, and the amount of money he will likely be asking for. In his only full game this season, Bradford posted an impressive line of 27 for 32, 346 yards and three touchdowns. If this was the quarterback at the helm for Minnesota all year, with all-due respect to Case Keenum, it is hard to imagine them not being in the Super Bowl.
Despite his ability to play, his ability to stay healthy is what hinders Bradford most. And at the ripe age of 30 with his injury history, he is not a guy you can trust to stay on the field. That being said, if the Vikings were to keep Bradford and let Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater walk, I would like to see them sign him to a one-year deal and draft a quarterback to learn behind him for a season. Unfortunately, Bradford is not trusworthy in terms of health and the NFL-ready rookies this year will all be taken high in round one.
I fully expect the Vikings to allow Sam Bradford to walk. That is, if he can.
What a year for Keenum; 67.6 percent completion, 98.3 rating, 3547 yards, 22 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. All were career highs when starting at least 10 games. Armed with a terrific defense and Pro Bowl offensive weapons, Keenum was not asked to do a whole lot besides protect the football, which he did quite well. He was also terrific at avoiding pressure and performed well when under pressure. He had the 2nd best rating when pressured over the season with 69.8. Keenum did not single-handedly win games, but he was excellent at not losing them.
Even after this great season, one thing is clear to me: He is not a franchise quarterback. Keenum is a great option to come in and perform as long as he has the right system and enough help. But he is not the game changer a franchise is looking for. He is not a Brady, Rodgers or Brees-type who can make everyone around him better. He is not a Roethlisberger or Stafford-type who can put up insane numbers with great players around him either. If Minnesota were to make him their franchise quarterback with the current team they have, Keenum would resemble more of an Andy Dalton or, at best, a Joe Flacco. However, take away the great defense or the solid offensive supporting cast that Minnesota has and all bets are off.
If he is not too spendy, Minnesota should bring Keenum back for at least one more year. But if Keenum is going to be asking for big time money, this case will be closed.
We all know the positives and negatives Bridgewater had prior to his injury in August 2016. He was accurate, could scramble a little bit and brought Vikings fans hope. Given that he has not completed a pass in over two years, nobody really knows what his positives are anymore. His comeback was nothing short of miraculous, but is he going to be the same quarterback?
Bridgewater’s negatives, unfortunately, have only piled up since going down. Even before the injury, he did not have an arm to throw deep, was prone to making rookie mistakes and only threw for 14 touchdowns in each of his two seasons. These negatives could reflect on the coaching of that time, but it is all the tape we have right now.
Now, post-injury, more questions are centered around Bridgewater than ever before. Can you trust him to stay on the field? Can he even be counted on to be as good as before? Is there room for improvement? Is he better than Keenum? So many questions with virtually no answers to be had. Only time will tell.
All of this being said, it is clear that Minnesota still loves him. All in all, I would bet the Vikings will bring back Bridgewater for next season, but with competition. Whether that competition is Keenum, Bradford or an outsider will be yet another question in the seemingly millions of questions surrounding Teddy Bridgewater.
Other Offensive UFAs
Handing off from quarterbacks to a running back, Jerick McKinnon is one of the two backs on the list of Vikings unrestricted free agents. He is arguably the best non-quarterbac on said list after having another solid season splitting carries.
McKinnon has made a name for himself as a small, shifty back that is not afraid to take or deliver a hit. He has shown flashes of starter capabilities and he simply does not fumble the ball. After posting a solid season sharing carries with Latavius Murray, the 25 year-old McKinnon now faces a decision. Does he want to stay in Minnesota with a smaller role behind Dalvin Cook? Or does he want to try his luck elsewhere?
McKinnon’s decision will have to be made soon, but based off of the interview he gave saying he has higher expectations for himself, it does not sound promising that the Vikings and McKinnon will figure out a deal.
At 35 years old, Berger is still a grinder. Starting all 16 games for a much improved offensive line, he ranked 25th among NFL guards on Pro Football Focus with a grade of 75.4. Age is but a number as Berger, the 12 year veteran, is proving. Should he decide to give it another go, the Vikings should re-sign him to a one-year deal and prepare his replacement for the following season.
Some may have forgotten about Michael Floyd. Minnesota gave the troubled receiver another chance on last year, but just two months later he was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy.
In 11 games with Minnesota, Floyd was never a factor. He posted a measly 10 catches on 17 targets for 78 yards and no touchdowns. The former 1,000-yard receiver was nowhere to be seen in 2017. Floyd should get another shot elsewhere, but do not expect the Vikings to be the team to give him that chance.
Running back Bishop Sankey has bounced around quite a bit recently. After being waived by Tennessee with two years remaining on his contract in 2016, he was a member of three different teams in less-than two months. Sankey would head into the 2017 NFL season on a Future/Reserve contract with Minnesota.
In the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, Sankey looked pretty good at the start of the second half. He had four catches for 15 yards and had just ripped off a 14 yard-run. But then he tore his ACL, ending his season. With his age, the fact that he cannot seem to hold a job and now a bad injury, things are looking grim for Sankey’s NFL career. Hopefully he can find work somewhere and salvage some of his career, but he most certainly will not be back in a Vikings uniform.
Tune in tomorrow when we examine the free agents on defense and special teams.
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