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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Should the Vikings franchise tag Case Keenum?

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings have more options at quarterback than The Bachelor has at the start of Season 23. It may turn out that the player right under their nose is the best person for the gig in 2018.

Case Keenum won 12 of his 15 regular season games and finished in the top 10 in quarterback rating, which should put him in the conversation for the starting job next season.

Keenum is a free agent, but the Vikings could exercise the franchise tag and keep the former Texans and Rams QB for one year at a price tag (and cap hit) around $23 million.

There are a few benefits to tagging Keenum, first being that the Vikings wouldn’t have to lock into him long term right away.

The sample size for his success is very small and it would be reasonable to have concerns about regression. Prior to signing with the Vikings, Keenum produced a 78.4 rating over 26 games. His rating was 20 points higher this year, completion percentage was nearly 10 percent higher and touchdown to interception ratio went from 24:20 previously to 22:7 this season.

Graphic per Football Reference:

Some numbers from this year will be hard to sustain, including his 99.2 rating against the blitz. In 2016, he posted a 69.8 rating against the blitz. Against pressure, he managed a 78.5 rating, whereas in 2016 that number was a mere 37.4.

So giving Keenum a one-year deal would give the Vikings the opportunity to find out whether he’s closer to the quarterback we saw in 2017 or the one who played for Houston and St. Louis/Los Angeles.

Franchising Keenum would also give the Vikings a chance to bring back either Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford.

There’s a distinct possibility that both QBs struggle to find big money on the free agent market because of their history of knee injuries. If either returned at a reasonable dollar, Bradford or Bridgewater could battle in preseason and camp with Keenum for the starting job, then the Vikings could make a long-term decision at the end of 2018. It remains plausible that Bridgewater’s contract could toll to next season, but the Pioneer Press reported the NFLPA would then likely file a grievance against the Vikings.

Salary cap room won’t be a huge concern. Major contract extensions for star players like Stefon Diggs and Anthony Barr won’t kick in until 2019. The Vikings currently have $57 million in cap space and will open another $6 million from Sharrif Floyd. Minnesota could afford to have $35 million allocated to QBs without harming their offseason plans.

If the Vikings don’t franchise Keenum, it will be because they either have a better option like trading for Kansas City QB Alex Smith or signing Washington free agent quarterback or they simply don’t believe he can take them to the Super Bowl next year. Of all quarterbacks who played in this year’s playoffs, Keenum finished with the second lowest rating.

It’s not always wise to grade a player by playoff performance, but the Vikings could see his struggles at times against New Orleans and throughout the game in Philadelphia as a sign of things to come rather than an outlier.

Plus, the problem with the franchise tag is that the Vikings don’t really have time to wait and see on a quarterback. They are built to win now, not slow play.

But their biggest fear, however, would be letting Keenum walk and having him perform at a top-10 level for years to come in another city. Tagging him insures they will have a healthy quarterback capable of guiding them to the playoffs.

The post Should the Vikings franchise tag Case Keenum? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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