Sometimes it seems that in the offseason there is as much interest in the NFL as during the season due to free agency, the draft, rules changes, training camp, etc.
If the group of quarterbacks available in the 2018 free agency period were beauty pageant contestants, then it would be fair to look at Kirk Cousins (formerly of the Washington Redskins) as the “Miss America” of the group, and Case Keenum (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings) as the “Miss Congeniality” of the group.
In other words: the former was the crown jewel of the group, and the latter was the one that everyone also loved, but just not as much as the other contestant.
In the end, it was the Minnesota Vikings – who, uncoincidentally, chose to pursue Cousins to replace Keenum – that ended up with the top quarterback prize. While Keenum played brilliantly at times for the Vikings in 2017, their miserable performance in the NFC Championship game – when Keenum threw an interception early, that helped spark the onslaught brought on by the Philadelphia Eagles – left a lot of sour tastes in the mouths of the Vikings brass. There were more than a few people in the organization who felt that Keenum’s career year was more about being a product of (now former) offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s system. With Shurmur now gone, having taken the head coaching position for the New York Giants, would Keenum be the same guy?
Conversely, Minnesota felt they would be getting more of a “proven” commodity in Cousins, who’s thrown for 4,000+ yards in each of the past two seasons. More importantly, they felt that he could become the prolific quarterback the Vikings have lacked recently, especially under new (and highly-regarded) offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, while throwing to two Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Whether or not Cousins was truly the “missing piece” to get the Vikings over that last hurdle (and into the Super Bowl) is debatable. But Cousins’ signing allows Minnesota to do to build a team over the next two or three years that’s exclusively focused on reaching – and winning – the Super Bowl.
As far as Keenum’s new home, regardless of what the Denver Broncos’ brass might tell you, their Plan A was always to try and bring Kirk Cousins to Denver, and Plan B – if Cousins’ price tag was too rich for them (which it was) – was to sign Case Keenum, and likely draft a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft as the heir apparent. Keenum’s signing in Denver at least gives the Broncos a competent (at worst) quarterback immediately, which is much more than they could say about the performances of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch last year; in another twist of irony, the Vikings acquired Siemian to be Cousins’ backup after the Broncos put Siemian on the trade block, and though they’ll say otherwise, Denver likely hopes they can trade Lynch for something of value as well.
But Keenum may face something of a “redux” of his days with the Los Angeles Rams: keeping the seat warm for a highly-drafted rookie quarterback. There’s a strong chance that the Broncos use their first round pick (at #5 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft on a quarterback; looking at the way things may fall (at least as of today), that would probably be Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield from the University of Oklahoma. While the public pressure will mount on the organization to play the rookie early on (if the Broncos do go down this route), it does given Denver the ability to let the young guy sit on the bench as long as possible, while Keenum holds the fort and gives the fans something to look forward to in 2018, at the least.