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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Why would the Vikings choose not to franchise tag Case Keenum?

By Matthew Coller

The deadline to franchise tag Case Keenum is near and it appears the Minnesota Vikings will not to place the franchise tag on their 2017 starting quarterback.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport is reporting that the Vikings are not expected to tag Keenum before the March 6 deadline.

The team will still have several weeks to work out a long-term contract with Keenum if they please, but it would now come as a surprise if the Vikings were willing to pay the highest price on the market with several other teams reported to be interested. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noted that the Broncos could be a top landing spot.

If Keenum’s run as a Viking is over, what went into the decision?

Report: Vikings not expected to franchise tag Case Keenum

With the former Ram and Texan under center, the Vikings went 12-3 and won a playoff game over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Keenum completed 67.3 percent of his passes at 7.4 yards per attempt with 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a quarterback rating of 98.3.

Why would the Vikings want to let a quarterback with the ninth highest rating in the NFL hit the market?

It’s a two part answer.

First, concerns that his play would not be sustainable. Prior to joining the Vikings, Keenum had a 78.4 rating. That’s like a .220 career hitter having one season where he bats over .300.

There are also deeper numbers that hint at Keenum having a difficult time repeating his 2017 performance. He set career highs while under pressure and against the blitz. It’s possible he simply improved in those situations, but more likely that it was a result of small sample size success.

The were also some key areas where Keenum did not have great numbers. For example, on third-and-long and when he attempted “big-time throws.”

In situations where the Vikings had third down and more than six yards to gain, Keenum averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, which ranked at the very bottom of the NFL among starters. He also posted a 65.2 rating in those situations. Compare that to third-and-short, where the Vikings’ starter had a 107.8 rating.

PFF tracks “big-time throws,” which would be into tight windows or deep down field. Only 4.0 percent of his throws were “big-time throws,” which ranked 20th in the NFL. PFF calculated that he generated the fourth most value from “non-NFL throws” such as swing passes and screens in the league.

On passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, he went 11-for-47 with two touchdowns, two interceptions.

He got a lot of help from receivers and running backs after the catch, ranking seventh lowest in air yards per completion. Stefon Diggs ranked No. 1 in completion percentage and QB rating on throws qualified as “contested catches.”

The takeaway being: He might not be able to keep up his 2017 results. Even if he did there might be other QBs whose play could also be elevated by the Vikings’ supporting cast.

Part 2 to the answer is the playoffs and Mike Zimmer’s nightmares.

In the playoffs, Keenum finished with the second lowest rating of any QB in the postseason. Only Tyrod Taylor was lower. While the sample size is very small in the playoffs, his performance could play into a long-term decision because he committed huge turnovers in both playoff starts.

Zimmer had been prescient in comments he made after a Vikings’ regular season win in Washington D.C. in which Keenum played a tremendous game, but nearly washed it away with two ugly INTs.

“Sometimes he gets off the reservation a little bit,” Zimmer said following the game. “I talked to him about understanding the situation of the game and where we’re at, and sometimes a throwaway is a good thing.”

That also happened to be the first game that Teddy Bridgewater was dressed following his long absence recovering from a horrific knee injury.

Everson Griffen said the team got together and made a decision to stick with Keenum because he was winning, but the Vikings’ head coach always seemed to have his finger hovering over the button.

“We’re just going to one week at a time,” Zimmer said after the Washington win. “That’s just the way it is. I’m not looking to pull him, but every week is a different week in this league.”

Keenum threw one brutal interception against the Saints that nearly ended the Vikings’ season, and then a key pick-six that let the Eagles back in the NFL Championship game.

It was like Zimmer had already seen the ending.

With his sights set on a Super Bowl, the Vikings’ most influential decision maker may simply want a quarterback he can trust when his team has a 17-7 lead in the postseason. Coaches obsess over “situational football.” Well, the two playoff interceptions were the opposite of playing good situational football.

It’s not exactly fair to judge a QB by a couple miscues in the playoffs, but there isn’t a body of work to fall back on either. The Vikings have a Super Bowl-caliber roster. They might see it as too risky to hope that Keenum’s 2017 season was repeatable or too risky to believe he will avoid turnovers in the 2018 postseason.

Again, the Vikings still have the option of signing Keenum to a contract. But given that they did not franchise tag him or fully embrace him as the starter last season, it would come as a big surprise if they did. It appears the Vikings will simply say thanks for 2017 and so long.

The post Why would the Vikings choose not to franchise tag Case Keenum? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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