It is the season of speculation in the NFL free agency world. There are still two weeks before teams can even begin speaking with agents, so all rumors of destinations and contracts will remain just that, rumors. At least for the time being. There may be no team more embroiled in the rumor mill than the Vikings, as they simultaneously pursue the hottest quarterback on the market and lose exclusivity to three quarterbacks from their 2017 roster. No other Super Bowl hopeful has more uncertainty at the most important position.
With that in mind, let us take a look at some of the latest revelations from around the league that pertain to the Vikings’ quarterback situation.
Bridgewater contract not expected to toll
The Vikings and Teddy Bridgewater were in an odd boat a few weeks ago. There were reports that due to Bridgewater’s time on the PUP list, his contract may be eligible for tolling. That would mean he would remain under contract with the Vikings for one more season. But as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting, the contract is not expected to toll and Bridgewater will indeed enter unrestricted free agency March 14. The NFL has not come down with an official ruling, but the Vikings are also not pursuing the situation further.
Which brings up some interpretations of the Vikings’ actions. On the one hand, general manager Rick Spielman has stated that this issue is out of his hands. Only the league and player union can make a ruling. But Rapoport also explicitly stated that Minnesota does not plan on making the assertion that Bridgewater’s contract should toll. What that could mean is that the Vikings have little desire to have bring Bridgewater back. It could also just mean they want their young quarterback to have the opportunity to make better money than his current rookie deal. Or what Spielman said could be true and they have no power whatsoever in this circumstance.
Regardless, the Minnesota’s reported strong pursuit of Kirk Cousins makes it clear they are not content moving forward with any of the three quarterbacks from their 2017 roster. And there are more and more signs that the team could be the front-runner in those sweepstakes. Such as…
Jaguars extend Bortles
Jacksonville was expected to be a major player for Cousins largely because they are, in a way, the AFC version of the Vikings: A defensive juggernaut with major quarterback questions. However, the Jaguars instead decided to extend Blake Bortles for $26.5 million guaranteed, taking them out of the running. At this point, it seems the list of teams favored to land Cousins is now the Vikings, Cardinals, Jets and Broncos.
Minnesota will not franchise Keenum
Despite a breakout 2017 year, it has been clear from the start that the Vikings were not as high on Case Keenum as the team’s success would suggest. If unconfirmed rumors are to be believed, the Vikings only see Keenum as a backup, not as a long-term solution. As such, it appears the Vikings are content letting Keenum test the market and will not slap him with the franchise tag. It makes sense; the franchise tag would mean $19.9 million for Keenum. Despite his run to the NFC Championship Game, he is still a career journeyman who just had his first taste of sustained playing time. Committing so much money to him when Pat Shurmur is no longer in the building would be a massive gamble.
What this all means
Clearly, the Vikings are setting themselves up to go all-in on Cousins. Many around the league have labeled Minnesota as the front-runner and some reports have Cousins expressing a desire to join Minnesota. That would, of course, be with all money being close to equal. Minnesota could offer around $27 million a year. But some believe the Jets are in the top position to throw money at him until he signs.
The Vikings are best set up for immediate on-field success of the potential Cousins destinations. But they also have a lot of star players who made their mark after signing their current deal. Those players are going to get paid in the not-so-distant future.
At the moment, the contingency plan appears to be Bridgewater for one year with a veteran, maybe Keenum or Josh McCown, as his backup. That, of course, would depend on none of those guys finding bigger deals elsewhere. But at the moment, the rumors are that the markets for Bridgewater and Keenum are not as vast as one would think. It would also be fair to assume that Sam Bradford is out of the Vikings’ market, due to his injury concerns and steeper price tag.
Again, it is all rumors. And today is the start of the draft combine, so all sorts of new speculation will emerge in the next 24 hours. Stay tuned.
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