This is a doozy.
For most of the past couple weeks, or really ever since Case Keenum solidified himself as a starter and people realized that the Vikings were sitting on an unprecedented decision at quarterback, the “What will the Vikings do at quarterback?” question has dominated Vikings fandom/Vikes websites. Well, that question appears to be answered, at least if you believe Charley Walters of The Pioneer Press. Walters wrote this weekend that the Vikings were targeting free agent quarterback AJ McCarron IF the negotiations with Case Keenum fell through. That’s a doozy because it answers both questions, the first being which of the three available quarterbacks the Vikings had on roster last year the team wants to move forward within 2018 (and beyond), and secondly it answers what free agent quarterback the Vikings would go after either instead of one of the three or if negotiations fall through with one of the three. It also puts the kibosh on the Kirk Cousins to Minnesota rumors that have been building, even as recently as Friday with new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo commenting on him on KFAN. Again, if you believe the rumor, which isn’t really fleshed out or explained by Walters.
McCarron was actually supposed to be a restricted free agent this off-season but filed and won a grievance against the Bengals, making him an unrestricted free agent this off-season. McCarron has limited NFL experience, appearing 11 times over the course of his three-year career as a Bengal, throwing for 920 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. While some have compared him to Jimmy Garoppolo (and his mega-deal), this is a bit of a different situation, as Garoppolo also won all of his five games as a 49er and looked like a legitimate superstar before negotiating his deal. That logic actually applies better to Case Keenum, a back-up with some experience as a starter who came to Minnesota and ended up with a great wins-to-loss record and is now up for a new contract. However, Garoppolo did only attempt more than 50 passes than McCarron during his time in New England. McCarron is said to probably cost around $10-million per year, which is a lot less than Kirk Cousins’ assumed contract of at least $25-million per season. The question becomes, is Cousins worth two and half McCarrons? I definitely think so.
I’ve obviously been a large proponent of the Kirk Cousins to Minnesota narrative (see the above “math”), as the Vikings do have just under $50-million in cap space and would be able to sign Cousins and nearly every other player that they need to (at the expense of one of them, most likely Danielle Hunter). Bringing in a player like McCarron is a huge risk as he’s never really been able to establish himself and may take time to develop as a starter, even at the age of 27. This team’s window of opportunity, with this defense and the skill players that they have on offense, is open right now and they don’t really have time to wait for a quarterback to figure things out. The management has clearly shown that they realize that and has “gone for it” before, namely in bringing in Sam Bradford at the expense of two draft picks (including a first-rounder) after Teddy Bridgewater went down for the count before the season started in 2016. Cousins won’t require a draft pick, but he may require a boatload of money and that’s something that has divided Vikings fandom this off-season (as has questions about his fumbles and interceptions under pressure). However, he’ll really only be about $5 (or so) million more than Case Keenum and if you use the same question above, I’d definitely say that Cousins is worth the extra $5 million he’d cost over Keenum. Definitely.
As luck would have it, new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was asked about Cousins on KFAN Friday, and he responded:
“I know a pretty good deal about Kirk Cousins,” DeFilippo said. “I’ve had to compete against him because we were in the same division. Kirk’s a heck of a football player. He’s got a lot of skills and he’s accurate, with plenty of arm strength. Kirk’s a very good quarterback.”
Granted, he was asked about Cousins so it’s not as huge of a sign that the Vikings are interested as some may want it to be. But there has been other signs of support for the move from Vikings players like Stefon Diggs, who followed Cousins on Instagram and from Adam Thielen, who threw Cousins’ name out there when asked about the Vikings QB situation a few weeks ago. While I hate to make every article about Cousins, I do feel like he gives the Vikings the best chance to not only win, but really to keep up with the rest of the NFC that’ll be a lot more difficult next season with returning players like Aaron Rodgers and Ezekiel Elliot.
The idea of McCarron being the starter week one does nothing for me. In fact, that’s not true. It’d make me pretty upset as the Vikings could just sign Bridgewater, a quarterback who has two-seasons under his belt and is really familiar with the players on the team. While I’ve never been a huge Teddy guy, by any stretch of the imagination, at least we’d know what we’d be getting with Teddy (From a play standpoint, not an injury standpoint, which could be the reason why this isn’t happening (to be fair)), a player who was still improving before his injury. So, this move would most likely confuse and anger me, something that’s not really the response I was hoping for when the Vikings had this many options at quarterback that weren’t players who have appeared in 11 games.