Case Keenum is a Viking. The Purple signed the journeyman quarterback on Monday and trotted him out to the media on Tuesday (via conference call), and now suddenly the Vikings’ problems at quarterback are solved, right? Solved might be a bit strong.
What do the Vikings get in Keenum? A five-year pro who has spent time (15 games) with Vikings starting quarterback Sam Bradford in St. Louis in 2014. Plus he has 24 starts under his belt (for the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans) and a record of 9-15 in those starts. He is a veteran with starting experience and, at age 29, healthier legs than his predecessor Bradford, who is also 29.
Keenum will most assuredly take the place of backup veteran quarterback away from Shaun Hill (who is likely done after a 11-year career) and ahead of third-stringer Taylor Heinicke, who spend last season on the injured reserved with a sliced tendon in his foot. With Teddy Bridgewater almost certainly missing another season rehabbing from his horrific knee injury last September, Keenum will be tabbed as the veteran in residence to be the team savoir should Bradford get injured.
So, is that an okay thing, or this an underwhelming settling for the little that is out there in the backup QB department? Time will tell. But in the meantime, let’s hear from the newest Purple signal caller. When Keenum spoke to the media on Tuesday, he certainly toed the company line regarding his role on the team. Of course, no quarterback still in his 20s with a only 24 starts on his resume eschews the thought of starting for his new team right out of hand. And Keenum didn’t either.
“My goal at any team I’ve ever been apart of is to make that team better,” Keenum said. “If that’s the role required of me—although we didn’t talk specifics about that with the coaches—I’m ready to come in and compete. I’m going to learn this offense as quickly as I can and focus on making this team better.”
As we mentioned, Keenum did spend a season on the same team with the presumptive Minnesota starter, Bradford, while the two were in St. Louis. But Bradford spent most of his time rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and the two were more like ships passing in the meeting room than bosom buddies.
“He’d be in the meeting rooms with us during the season,” Keenum said. “Obviously, he was rehabbing, and had some other things that he was trying to get squared away. I’m excited to get to know him even more and watch him work on the field. I’ve watched him from afar—just on film, being a fan of the game and his game and how he plays—for a while now. He’s a heck of an athlete, and he’s got an incredible arm talent. I’m excited to see it live and in person on the field.”
When asked about what attracted him to Minnesota, Keenum was non-committal about his other options and simply offered praise for his new team and organization.
“Just the Vikings organization—just everybody we met,” Keenum said. “From getting picked up at the airport, to being at the facility and meeting with all the coaches and staff, it seems like a first-class team. And from what I ‘ve heard that comes from the owners, so I am excited to be a part of that.”
It’s interesting that Keenum’s contract is only for one year and that he didn’t try to find something with a longer-term commitment, but that is likely the life of a backup quarterback in the NFL. Bradford is currently under contract for only one more year, and the Bridgewater situation certainly places some uncertainty on the entire quarterback situation in Minnesota.
Therefore, 2017 is likely a “prove it” year for the entire stable of Vikings quarterbacks. Is Bradford the long term solution worthy of a big extension? Is Keenum the right backup with potential to take over and start if need be? Can Heinicke keep from kicking in glass doors this offseason? And will Teddy play this season or ever again? Many of these questions will be answered in the offseason and season ahead, and for now, Keenum is ready to go to work and will let things play out.
“The business side of the NFL is so strange to me,” he said. “I trust my agent; I trust Rick [Spielman] and those guys—I think they did a great job with my contract. You try to make decisions based on what’s best for you, and you take all different possibilities and things into consideration. We felt like a one-year deal at this point was best. So, I try not to look too far ahead anyway.”
Good attitude, coming in, as the Vikings quarterback situation is anything but completely settled. It appears right now to be a good pick up. The season ahead could tell the tale.