With the NFL playoffs on the horizon, the Minnesota Vikings are flying high with the NFC North division title, and also hold one of the best records in the NFC. With everything going right at quarterback, the front office will have to make an important decision involving Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater in the upcoming off-season. With all three quarterbacks set to become free agents, which of them will stay longer than this season?
Drafted by the team with the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Teddy Bridgewater has the potential to be the franchise quarterback that can lead the Vikings to the next level. In his four seasons with Minnesota, Bridgewater has thrown for 6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions with a passer rating of 86.3.
Even though Bridgewater has never thrown for 20+ touchdowns in a single season, he is not close to being considered a bust in the NFL. He has a strong arm, is accurate in the pocket, and has proven to be not only a threat with his arm, but is also effective at making plays with his feet.
In 2015, Bridgewater threw for 3,231 yards 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Even though he did not put up spectacular numbers, he showed promise throughout the season, leading Minnesota to a 11-5 record and NFC North title. Against teams that season with a top ten pass defense, Bridgewater held a record of 4-4, throwing for 1,784 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions
Leading up to the 2016 season, many expected Bridgewater to take the next step in becoming a franchise quarterback, but that was until a few days before the regular season started. On August 30th, during a team practice, Bridgewater suffered a season-ending torn MCL injury.
Throughout the entire 2016 season, Bridgewater spent the season rehabilitating and getting his knee back to full strength in order to reclaim his job as the starting quarterback.
After one year of rehab, Bridgewater finally got onto the field during week fifteen, as the Vikings contained a 20+ point lead over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent in a few months, Bridgewater’s value is not as high as it would be, which could play to Minnesota’s benefit. In fact, taking a gamble on Bridgewater may emerge as the smartest option.
With the way Case Keenum is playing currently, it would not surprise me if Bridgewater elected to leave this off-season due to the commitment the franchise may already have with Keenum.
Prediction: Bridgewater re-signs with Minnesota on a short-term basis
After his injury, it would not be smart to lock Bridgewater up to a long-term deal. Signing Bridgewater to a short-term deal would be the best option for the front office, and would give Bridgewater the chance to earn his starting job back.
Just after losing Bridgewater, the Vikings acquired Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
In fifteen starts last season, Bradford tossed for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and posted a league-high 71.6% completion percentage. In games against teams with a top ten pass defenses, Bradford held a 4-1 record, and threw for 1,210 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 1 interception.
In his seven years in the league, Bradford has proven to be a productive quarterback when he is not dealing with injuries. When protected, Bradford can throw accurately down the field to his wide receivers with ease.
Leading up to the 2017 season, with a revamped offensive line and a somewhat established running game, folks were expecting Bradford to have a successful season. During week one against the New Orleans Saints, he suffered a knee injury, which caused Case Keenum to step in as the starter. Bradford then returned for week five against the Chicago Bears, and it turned out to be a terrible decision.
Throughout his entire career, the biggest problem for Bradford has been his ability to stay healthy, as he has only played 80 total games in four seasons, and has not played a full season since 2012 with the St. Louis Rams.
After his injury, Keenum grasped that opportunity and ran with it, producing staggering numbers this season, which lead to their postseason entry.
With Teddy Bridgewater back at 100%, as well as the rise of Case Keenum, Bradford must feel like the odd man out in Minnesota. His injury history will play a huge part in whether to re-sign him or not.
In recent news, a report came out that Bradford could be healthy enough for the Vikings playoff run. With that, unless Keenum gets injured or sees a rather drastic decline, it is unlikely Bradford will see any time on the field.
Prediction: Sam Bradford leaves Minnesota via free agency
Minnesota already has two quality quarterbacks in Bridgewater and Keenum, so it’s likely that Bradford will leave. Even though he has a consistent injury history, teams such as the Denver Broncos, who are indeed looking for a quarterback solution, may take a look at signing Bradford. He has proven that he can be productive within the right offensive system.
Another option, unfortunately, would be to call it quits and retire. With that many injury at such a young age, it might be smarter to retire before his body crumbles.
After finding out Bridgewater would start the season on the injured reserve list, Minnesota proceeded to sign free agent quarterback Case Keenum to sit behind Sam Bradford.
In fifteen games, Keenum has thrown for 3,347 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. With everyone expecting Bradford to repeat the success he had last season, Keenum filled in quite nicely when Bradford went down with a knee injury.
After having an average start to his NFL career with both Houston and Los Angeles, Keenum surprised everyone this season and showed that he can lead a team to wins. With his outstanding arm accuracy, as well as his ability to make plays in the pocket, Keenum has even found himself within the MVP conversation in 2017.
With his prior teams, Keenum did not start more ten games in a single season, which stunts his ability to develop. After signing with Minnesota, even though he was thought out to be a backup, Keenum seized his moment.
Just a few weeks ago, the Vikings activated Teddy Bridgewater off of the injured reserve list. After Bridgewater was taken off, fans wanted him to get a chance to earn his starting job.
Seeing how Keenum has performed this season is amazing. Here is an example of a player that was overlooked throughout his entire NFL career looking for a chance to show what he can do on the field. It is truly remarkable what one guy can do when he is given the opportunity in the NFL, and that opportunity can occasionally change a career.
Heading into the playoffs, experts are having doubts that Keenum will hold the Vikings back due to his inexperience. With an outstanding defense, solid wide receiving core, a solid offensive line, and a superb coaching staff, those doubts should be tossed out the window.
With Minnesota only signing him through 2017, he is playing for more than a Super Bowl Trophy; he is also playing for a brand new contract. With the way he has been playing, it would be in the Vikings best interest to re-sign.
If the Vikings don’t re-sign Keenum, he will turn into a free agent. In all likelihood, Minnesota holds the most value over a player of Keenum’s caliber. Aside from his play this season, Keenum would likely be viewed as a backup option with a vast majority of outside franchises.
Prediction: Case Keenum re-signs with Minnesota on a short-term basis
With the way Keenum has been performing all season, it makes sense for both sides to come up with a new contract. With a short-term deal at hand, it would give Minnesota leverage on deciding what to do long-term at the quarterback position.
Both Keenum and Bridgewater are both marketed as starting quarterbacks for franchises in 2018, but by re-signing both, the Vikings can delay their process of naming a solution behind center a bit longer.
Photo Credit: Bleacher Report
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