The Minnesota Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game last season with Case Keenum at the helm. Should they replicate that success in 2018, they’ll do so with someone else under center. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Keenum plans to sign with the Denver Broncos when free agency officially begins on Wednesday.
Though Keenum nearly helped the Vikings become the first team to appear in a Super Bowl at their home stadium, he began the season in considerably more modest circumstances. After languishing on the open market for weeks, he signed with Minnesota as a placeholder for the still-recovering Teddy Bridgewater. However, with Bridgewater beginning the year on the physically unable to perform list and Sam Bradford dealing with a debilitating knee injury following Week 1, Keenum found himself as the starter.
From there, Keenum’s star took off. Though Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer seemed reluctant to commit to him, Keenum performed at the highest level of his career, throwing for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on 67.6 percent completion. More importantly, the Vikings emerged as a dominant force in the NFC, one well positioned to reach Super Bowl LII. Along the way, he authored the “Minnesota Miracle,” perhaps the defining moment of the 2017 season.
However, after the Vikings fell to the eventual-champion Philadelphia Eagles in the conference championship, the Vikings shifted their attention to free agency. With several big-name options such as Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins available, Keenum appeared relegated to a backup plan.
Without a red carpet waiting in Minnesota, Keenum hit the free-agent negotiation period untethered. That allowed the Broncos to swoop in and agree in principle with a quarterback who immediately improves an offensive unit that has struggled in the wake of Peyton Manning’s retirement.
With Keenum off the table, the Vikings must continue their pursuit of Cousins and Brees. Should both turn them down, the remaining options look significantly less enticing. Minnesota could rerun the Bradford experiment, though he managed just two starts last season. Bridgewater too could return to the Twin Cities, but he has played even less over the last two years due to his own catastrophic knee injury. Perhaps the Vikings could consider a free agent like AJ McCarron, though he has only minimal starting experience.
Regardless of how the Vikings decide to move forward, they will start a new man under center next season, and that change impacts the rest of the division.