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Updated: What is the most likely outcome of the Vikings’ quarterback situation?

By Matthew Coller

Last week, MMQB’s Peter King wrote his potential landing spots for every free agent quarterback. For the Minnesota Vikings, King projected that Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum will both be on the roster when 2018 opens. But that’s far from the only possibility. So let’s have a look at five potential quarterback scenarios for the Vikings…

Kirk Cousins-Kyle Sloter

Nov 19, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Redskins 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Pluses:

Debates have raged on over whether Cousins is a top tier quarterback or mid-pack, but when Washington had a great supporting cast in 2015, he put up big numbers, leading the NFL in completion percentage and posting a 101.6 rating. Cousins is virtually guaranteed to lock down the position for years to come – which is something the Vikings can’t say for sure about their other QB options. The 30-year-old QB is a high character player who will work incredibly hard to maximize all of his talent.

If the Vikings sign Cousins, they won’t have much to spend on a backup. They clearly like Sloter considering the Vikings released tight end Kyle Carter to make room for Sam Bradford in the playoffs rather than waiving him.

Drawbacks:

Cousins has some frustrating moments. His last three years have included some frustrating moments, including turnovers at big times and disappointing performances at the most important situations. He’s been a mediocre QB on third downs and when down in the fourth quarter, which could be caused by opponents being able to scheme to slow him down. The Vikings are looking at their QB situation through the lens of the Super Bowl. They are not simply trying to be competitive.

Paying out $30 million per season is feisable over the next few years with the Vikings’ cap situation, but it could present challenges down the road. And signing Cousins means there are no takebacks. He’s the face of the franchise whether it works out or not.

COMBINE UPDATE:

Nearly every day of the NFL Combine, there has been a different report that connects the Vikings to Kirk Cousins. On Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter named the Vikings one of the “final four” teams for his services. Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson wrote that Denver will move heaven and earth to get Cousins, so this ultimately might be a two horse race. One holdup: Mike Zimmer said that he doesn’t want to sacrifice his top-rated defense to get a quarterback. “Let’s not go crazy,” he said on Thursday. Denver might be willing to go crazy, but the Vikings might offer better receivers and weapons for Cousins to flourish.

Why it’s the best outcome: Cousins provides stability and certainty at the position. He will be good enough to have the Vikings in the mix during their winning window.

Odds of it happening: Very likely

Teddy Bridgewater-Josh McCown

Nov 19, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Pluses:

If the Vikings make Bridgewater their set-in-stone starter heading into camp, that means they are highly confident in his health. They have more information about his status than any other team or anyone on the outside and have seen him practice from October to the end of the season. Bridgewater would find himself a much better situation than the one he last had in 2015 with two elite receivers, an improved offensive line and a top-notch all-around running back.

McCown played well for the New York Jets last season after winning their starting job in camp. He had similar numbers to Case Keenum with a 94.5 rating and an adjusted completion percentage on deep passes that only trails Drew Brees among free agents. If the Vikings had to turn things over to McCown, they could still remain competitive so long as Mike Zimmer’s defense is elite again. McCown would also be OK with a backup job at age 39 and he has previous experience working with John DeFilippo.

Drawbacks:

While he’s played well at times, it would be a lot to ask McCown to lead the Vikings anywhere if Bridgewater got hurt or struggled mightily. No matter how much the Vikings have seen in practice, it’s difficult to project whether Bridgewater will return to the form of late 2015 and preseason 2016, in which the team believed he would take the next step toward becoming a top-notch QB. There’s a chance the Vikings could end up back at square one.

COMBINE UPDATE:

ESPN is reporting that Bridgewater will have offers to potentially start. He has stated clearly that he believes he will be able to step back in as a starter despite his devastating knee injury in August 2016. Zimmer talked at length at the Combine about how much he loves Bridgewater and even said he hopes that Bridgewater continues his career in Minnesota. But Zimmer also knows the reality: It’s hard to know whether he can ever return to 2015 form or reach his high ceiling. With the idea of tolling appearing to be out of the picture (Spielman said Wednesday he doesn’t think it will happen), Bridgewater could simply decide he wants a different situation.

Why it’s the best outcome: Bridgewater still has a ceiling to reach. He’s already proven that he can win. If he comes back healthy, the Vikings could very well have their QB for the next decade. In the worst case scenario, McCown gives them a chance to compete.

Odds of it happening: Likely, but losing steam

Sam Bradford-Lamar Jackson

Oct 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) throws a pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Pluses:

If Bridgewater moves along, the Vikings will need another long-term plan. It’s tough to get a feel on where the NFL ranks Lamar Jackson, The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville has received some bizarre criticisms in the media, but inside NFL front offices, there could be more interest than draft experts are saying. But if he drops to No. 30, the Vikings should be interested. Jackson might need a year to sit (a la Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City), which would require the Vikings to have a win-now quarterback. Bradford’s knee injuries are likely to scare teams away from committing to him long term. With an improved offensive line and running game, Bradford could make the Vikings very competitive if he remained healthy.

Drawbacks:

The Vikings are in the middle of a winning window. Relying on Bradford to stay healthy is very risky. There’s also no guarantee they could get Jackson or any other reasonably good quarterback prospect in the draft. By the time the draft comes around, many – if not all – other quality QB options would be off the table.

COMBINE UPDATE:

Zimmer had a lot of good things to say about Bradford on Thursday, which led some pundits to hint that the Vikings are still considering him for the job. Zimmer called Bradford’s knee issue “degenerative,” which certainly doesn’t sound promising. If the Vikings were to bring back Bradford, they would need pretty significant insurance. Lamar Jackson’s stock is very hard to gauge because he has reportedly impressed teams in interviews, but there remains enough questions about his throwing mechanics that he might not be a top pick. John DeFilippo appears to be the perfect type of offensive coordinator for Jackson, who will need an OC to design an offense around his skill set.

Jackson isn’t the only QB who could be in the mix to drop. Sam Darnold’s career at USC had ups and downs, there are questions about Josh Allen’s accuracy and Josh Rosen’s personality that could cause any one of them to slip into the middle and prompt a trade up.

Why it’s the best outcome: We have seen a number of good QB prospects drop down the draft board for reasons outside of what’s important and predictive of success (see: Bridgewater Pro Day). Jackson has an incredibly high ceiling. Bradford might also prove that his knee can stay healthy. He’s got the talent to be a franchise QB.

Odds of it happening: Not highly likely, but not impossible

Teddy Bridgewater-Case Keenum

Jan 21, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) warms up before the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Pluses:

This scenario would mean an old fashioned quarterback competition. Bridgewater would have to prove in the preseason and camp that he is truly back to form despite missing the past two seasons. Likewise Keenum could attempt to prove that his strong 2017 was not a small sample size fluke.

If Bridgewater did win the job, his backup option would be a quarterback who has proven he can take a good team to a division title. If Keenum won the job, the Vikings could trade Bridgewater. And if you think he wouldn’t have interest, the Miami Dolphins reportedly called on Bridgewater last year before he’d even been medically cleared.

Keenum would have a shot to show he is worthy of a long-team deal (assuming he’s franchise tagged) and a full training camp would provide Bridgewater a chance to return to this spot as there Vikings’ franchise quarterback.

Drawbacks:

If Keenum loses the job in camp, he’ll be the highest paid backup in the NFL at around $23 million on the franchise tag and trading him wouldn’t be an option considering the risk involved with Bridgewater’s knee. While $23 million would make most of us happy, Keenum certainly believes his 2017 performance proved him worthy of a starting job somewhere. Last year it was easy for Keenum and Bridgewater to cheer for each other and for the locker room to be (mostly) behind Keenum. This time around, there’s a distinct possibility of friction within the locker room. The Keenum-Bridgewater dynamic would be a storyline and debate all season. If things don’t go perfectly, the noise will be difficult to ignore.

COMBINE UPDATE:

In Zimmer’s conversation with the media, he mentioned that the team wonders if Keenum was the QB who played for the Rams/Texans or the one we saw last year. Was he really good or simply a product of his supporting cast? They might believe that he is likely to regress or that they can find a better option to maximize the talents of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook. While Spielman said that no decisions have been made about the franchise tag, it has been reported by NFL Network that they will not tag Keenum.

It would be fair for Keenum to be frustrated by the Vikings’ lack of buy-in. He would probably want to look for another team that will guarantee him a starting spot and a multi-year deal. The losers of the Cousins sweepstakes – whether it’s the Jets, Cards or Broncos – might be his landing spot.

Why it’s the best outcome: It buys the Vikings more time to find out whether Bridgewater is back to 100 percent and/or Keenum can be a franchise QB.

Odds of it happening: Very unlikely

NEW ADDITION: Nick Foles-AJ McCarron

Feb 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during the second quarter against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Pluses:

As far as quarterback quality vs. contract, it’s hard to find a better deal than Foles. His cap hit will only be $7.6 million, allowing the Vikings to follow the Eagles’ model and stack up in free agency by signing another offensive and defensive lineman. Under anyone other than Jeff Fisher, Foles’ career record is 18-10 and he showed remarkable poise in big moments during the playoffs and Super Bowl. Foles also has a lot of experience working with DeFilippo.

Drawbacks:

Regression is a major concern with Foles. Yes, he won the Super Bowl with a great supporting cast – which the Vikings can offer – but the last time he had a hot run, it was followed by a down season. His career QB rating is 87.5. There is also no guarantee that McCarron is anything more than a backup. He was a fourth-round pick coming out of Alabama and played a very conservative style in the action he received back in ‘15.

Why it’s the best outcome: With the Vikings’ top-notch rostert, they would have a decent chance at repeating last year’s results with Foles. The Vikings also wouldn’t have to sign onto him long term and would have a potential long-term QB in McCarron.

Odds of it happening: Very low, but the Vikings were named-dropped here in connection with Foles and it appears McCarron is on their radar.

Bottom line

Each one of the Vikings’ options has risks. Cousins is the closest to a sure thing, but he’s an expensive sure thing. Bridgewater’s health is worrisome, but the best outcome of him coming back is that the Vikings have their franchise QB again. Keenum’s small sample size success means that if he’s back, he can’t be the only capable QB there. And Bradford’s knee issues would make him difficult to rest playoff hopes on.

The post Updated: What is the most likely outcome of the Vikings’ quarterback situation? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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