As the Vikings commence the process of figuring out what to do with three veteran quarterbacks whose contracts have expired, there’s an important option that the Vikings need to include: D. None of the above.
Sam Bradford with an unreliable knee. Teddy Bridgewater, who may or may not ever become the guy the Vikings thought he’d be before his own devastating knee injury. Case Keenum, who put together a career year, with no guarantee the rest of the league won’t catch up with him. At a time when it’s presumed the Vikings will choose one of them, maybe the right answer for the short- and long-term interests of the team is none of them.
The 2018 offseason will include an unprecedented array of quarterback options. With the Vikings soon to be adding a new offensive coordinator, the style and system of that coach, coupled with the preferences of coach Mike Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman, will go a long way toward finalizing an approach that could entail the Vikings going off the board in an effort to find a true franchise quarterback.
How many have the Vikings ever had? Fran Tarkenton. Warren Moon, late in his career. Randall Cunningham, for a season. Daunte Culpepper, for a couple of years before his knee was shredded. Brett Favre, for a season.
True year-in, year-out contenders have franchise quarterbacks. Two years ago, the Vikings thought Teddy Bridgewater was becoming one. Now, they’d be wise to retreat to square one before making any decisions about which one, if any, of the three veteran quarterbacks they’ll keep.
Ideally, the Vikings eventually would find a young quarterback who becomes a franchise quarterback. If the goal is to try to get back to the final four and sneak through to the next level, they need to target a veteran franchise quarterback — and until Drew Brees re-signs with the Saints, he’s technically in play. Eli Manning is another possibility for a year or two; Alex Smith would have a slightly longer window. Then there’s Kirk Cousins, who may or may not be a true franchise quarterback and who may be available to the highest bidder.
For the Vikings, cost will be a factor. What will it take to keep Keenum, Bridgewater, or Bradford? What will it take to lure another veteran? Is there a young quarterback they believe in sufficiently to justify a move up from No. 30? Is Kyle Sloter the eventual future at the position?
Maybe it’s a guy like Brees for a year or two, with Sloter eventually taking over. Maybe it’s Keenum under the franchise tag for a year, with a wait-and-see approach as to whether he truly is the next Kurt Warner. Maybe it’s Bridgewater, better late than never.
Whatever they do, a team that has enjoyed quantity at the position should now focus on quality. Until that happens, those chances to lose in the NFC title will continue to come once every decade or so.
For more on this and other issues arising from the AFC and NFC title games, check out Monday’s PFT PM podcast.