7 numbers behind the Vikings decision to spend lavishly on Kirk Cousins

7 numbers behind the Vikings\ decision to spend lavishly on Kirk Cousins
NFL Free Agency: Grading the quarterback signings
The biggest offseason question was answered Tuesday when Kirk Cousins agreed to terms on a three-year, $86 million deal with the Vikings. That money is fully guaranteed, the whole deal, which is unprecedented.

The Vikings are banking on Cousins living up to his full potential. He was effective in Washington without the best skill players around him. Hes got upgrades in Minnesota with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, a one-two punch of a healthy Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the backfield and the kind of defense that he never had in Washington.

But its still a risk for the Vikings. Theyre starting their sixth quarterback in as many seasons and are on the hook for a whole lot of money if Cousins doesnt pan out.

Siemian has one year left on his contract, at a salary of $1.9 million. He has played reasonably well at times, so it wouldn’t be surprising if some team thinks he’s worth a draft pick as a cheap option at the NFL’s most expensive position.

Report: Broncos fielding calls about trading Trevor Siemian

While Cousins is, was, and was always going to be free agencys biggest story, that was just one of the earth-shattering developments happening on Monday and Tuesday. Here were the biggest shakeups before free agency even started.

The Broncos also have Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly behind Keenum on the depth chart, and they may draft a quarterback. Brock Osweiler played on a one-year contract last year and is a free agent.

Before free agency, there were four teams in the running for Cousins: the Vikings, Broncos, Jets, and Cardinals. Now all of those teams have a starting veteran quarterback — or are in the process of finalizing one — for 2018.

The most likely candidate is Trevor Siemian. The Denver Post reports that the Broncos are expecting to trade Siemian and have already fielded calls from interested teams.

The Broncos took themselves out of the mix early, signing Keenum to a deal thats expected to be two years and around $18 million per season. That fits much more easily with the Broncos current cap situation than Cousins big money would have.

Keenum was decent last season in Minnesota, and hell have the benefit of a great Broncos defense and talent like Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas around him. He needs to have a good year.

ALL THE PRESIDENTS MENFirst off, LOVE the column. The depth and variety of angles is my favorite part of the story your team tells every day on MMQB. The conversations, the fly-on-the-wall description of key moments bring the process of the NFLs daily journey to life. Thank you for thinking outside of the box and recruiting the same kind of dreamers to help you make it happen. I first watched All The Presidents Men when I was 11 or 12. It made such an impact on me that I read the book in junior high for a class project. I will never forget the look on the teachers face when I proposed reading it. I think she thought I was in over my head, but she clearly didnt know what I was capable of. Later, it got me involved with the yearbook, led to newspaper internships in high school and college and a communications degree. My favorite line of the movie, from Robards playing Bradlee: “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a sh*t. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up … 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. Were under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothings riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f*** up again, Im going to get mad. Goodnight.” Outstanding. Keep it up. You and your team are the storytellers to this great game.​—Barry B. 

Broncos Super Bowl 53 odds improve with Case Keenum news

This is why the #Broncos MUST draft a QB in the Top 5 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Keenum 2012-16: 454/777 58.4% 5224 yards 24 TD 20 INT. Keenum 2017: 325/481 67.9% 3547 yards 22 TD 7 INT.

• Quarterback Sam Bradford to Arizona, one year, $20 million. I mean, I have great regard for Arizona GM Steve Keim. But this is a crazy contract if its as reported: $20 million without conditions, and $15 million guaranteed. (That is per ESPN. Ill change my mind if theres a smaller guarantee and incentives, all adding up to $20 million.) But in the past five years, Sam Bradford has played 38 games. He has missed 42 (mostly with injury, and a few with a coachs decision). He is 19-19 in those games. Lets compare with Tom Brady, the NFL MVP. Bradford: $20 million in 2018 money, and a $20 million cap number. Brady: $15 million in 2018 income, and a $22 million cap number. And lets compare with Drew Brees, who got $25 million a year for two years. What fan base feels better—the Saints with a guy very likely to play 16 games and throw for 4,500 yards; or the Cards, with a guy who missed 57 percent of the games in the past five years? The Cardinals needed a respectable quarterback, to be sure. But to pay Bradford good money when he hasnt earned it makes zero sense to me.

Thats why the Broncos havent ruled out drafting a quarterback in the first round this year, according to NFL Networks Ian Rapoport.

ON MADISON, INDIANAThanks for using part of your column to inform your readers about articles such as Juliet Macurs [on the drug and suicide problems in Madison, Ind.]. Im familiar with Madison, and many other small towns like it. And while this article was excellent, I can tell you the situations in these towns is far worse than is portrayed. Absolutely awful, and I cant for the life of me understand why so many young people with decent futures embrace drug use like they are. Its absolutely gutting these small towns. I dont have a solution, since I have no idea of the root cause. More funding for counseling would barely scratch the surface. There is something very dark in the hearts of so many young people, something that wasnt there a generation ago. But if some evil person wanted to eradicate small town America, he/she would curse them with the drug epidemic they have now.  ​—Dave S., Libertyville, Ill.
NFL Free Agency: Grading the quarterback signings
NFL Free Agency: Grading the quarterback signings

The Cardinals were also going to have a hard time making something work with Cousins because of their cap space. They missed out, but didnt take much time to sign Bradford to a one-year, $20 million deal on Tuesday.

A stark email, and a stark message to Sherman. Steve, I would just say this: Richard Sherman became a great football player because he had that significant edge to him, an edge that people in most walks of life do not have and never will. That edge allowed him to go wacko on Erin Andrews in a post-game interview, give the choke sign to the Niners after that game, and made him go batcrap on Darrell Bevell on the sidelines of a big game. None of that is nice. None of it is sportsmanlike. The stuff that you hate about Sherman is the same stuff he uses to play at the highest level of football after being a lightly regarded fifth-round pick. I get your anger. I also think if he did everything the right way, the polite way, hed never have been the player you grew to love. I am not saying that justifies anything he ever did. I am just saying it is part of the Richard Sherman package.

Video: Stephen A. and Max have heated debate reacting to Case Keenum joining Broncos | First Take | ESPN

School walkouts and more: 5 Things to Know for Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bradford played well when he was healthy at the beginning of the 2017 season. But he spent most of the year sidelined with what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer described as a degenerative condition in his knee. Hes undergone two ACL surgeries and has been hindered by injuries throughout his career. Hes not a long-term answer for Arizona, but at least theyve got a starter for this season.

• Malcolm Butler to Tennessee for $12 million a year. We may never know the documented truth about the benching of Butler in the Super Bowl. But someone inside the Patriots told me recently theres nothing deep and dark and secret about what happened to him at the Super Bowl: Hed simply been playing like crap in practice and Bill Belichick did what he felt he needed to do to win the game—put Butler on the bench. (Though Ill never understand dressing him if Belichick wasnt going to play him. That was cutting off the nose to spite the face.) Butler always was angry he didnt get paid before the 2017 season, or traded to a team (like New Orleans) that would pay him. Now he has the money. Will the Titans get a top-10 corner in return? Thats what they bought, and thats what they should expect.
Report: Broncos fielding calls about trading Trevor Siemian
Report: Broncos fielding calls about trading Trevor Siemian

The Jets were the last team in the mix to land a quarterback, signing a one-year a deal with Bridgewater. New York is a good landing spot for Bridgewater, who will have the chance to prove he can get back to form after missing most of the past two seasons rehabbing a knee injury that was so devastating it could have ended his career.

The Jets have the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft. They could still draft their franchise quarterback of the future and let him learn and develop behind Bridgewater for now.

CLEVELANDS DRAFTLove the column, never miss one. If I were a Browns fan, Id love to see them draft Saquon Barkley with the first pick, and pray that Baker Mayfield was there at four. I bet Hue would be able to relate to saying/doing regrettable things in the heat of the battle and really connect with Mayfield. Think about the weapons Mayfield would have with Tyrod Taylor as a bridge QB. Id watch that on Sundays. Love your work and your non-sports viewpoints and thoughts; if something is too long or Im not interested I scroll past. Seems simple to me.​—Steve, Fresno, Calif.
Report: Very concerned Cousins turned off by Broncos coaching
Report: Very concerned Cousins turned off by Broncos coaching

There was one other bit of unfinished quarterback business heading into free agency, and the Saints took care of it on Tuesday. The Saints got around to locking Brees up with a two-year, $50 million contract on Tuesday, so he will almost certainy finish his career with New Orleans. But they waited long enough that other teams were in touch with Tom Condon, Brees agent, about the possibility of signing him. At least one other team was willing to offer Brees a fully guaranteed two-year, $60 million deal to woo him away from New Orleans, according to ESPNs Mike Triplette. It didnt work.

Brees deal looks like a lot on paper. But its team-friendly, with just $27 million guaranteed. That gives New Orleans an out after Year 1 if this turns out to be the season that Brees finally plays like hes 39 years old.

Video: Did Broncos choose the right QB in Case Keenum? | Golic and Wingo | ESPN

LOOK: Von Miller gives preview of Case Keenum in Broncos jersey

Quarterbacks were the big story of this free agency period, but there were a couple of huge wide receiver moves, too. Once Jarvis Landry was tagged by the Dolphins and then traded to the Browns, Robinson became the hottest commodity on the receivers market. The Bears snatched him up with a three-year deal that could pay out as much as $42 million.

Robinson will be a quality weapon for second-year signal caller Mitchell Trubisky, and the Bears didnt stop there. They also brought in tight end Trey Burton. This approach worked out well last year for the Rams, who gave Jared Goff Sammy Watkins to throw to in his second season in Los Angeles. Bringing in Alshon Jeffery last year as a target for Carson Wentz panned out nicely, too. Well see if Robinson, who was productive with Blake Bortles throwing to him, can give the same kind of boost to Trubisky.

Speaking of Watkins, hes not in Los Angeles with Goff anymore. The Chiefs brought him in to help out another second-year quarterback — but first-time starter — Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs still have a dynamic trio of Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce on the roster. Watkins gives Mahomes another threat who can regularly beat coverage.

Case Keenum was never the guy for the Minnesota Vikings

The Chiefs paid handsomely — $48 million over three years — to land Watkins. But the former fourth overall pick is dangerous in space and should make the transition to starting much easier for Mahomes.

NFL free agency winners, losers: Vikings get right QB; Bears, Chiefs help theirs

Signing an offensive lineman never makes as big of a splash as adding any skill position player. But games are won in the trenches, and Norwell was far and away the best interior line option in the free agent market. The Jaguars will sign Norwell to a five-year, $66 million deal. That per-year average of $13.2 million makes him the leagues highest-paid guard, and hes got $30 million guaranteed.

Its not the flashiest signing, but it is a smart one that makes the Jaguars offense more dangerous.

Now, onto the goods. For many of you (if you are like me, you didnt follow a ton of the Vikings games), these insights should be very interesting and insightful:

I dont know if hes going to be able to approach what he did in 2017 again, but I think hes closer to being that guy than he is to being the guy that we saw in St. Louis/Los Angeles and Houston. In Houston he got eight starts for a team that went 2-14 in 2013, and with the Rams he was stuck with Jeff Fisher as his head coach.

As weve seen from the performance of not only Keenum, but Nick Foles and Jared Goff, having Jeff Fisher as your head coach isnt a situation that you should wish on any young quarterback.

LISTEN: Which Free Agents Should The Broncos Avoid?

Keenum obviously has talent, and it remains to be seen if the Broncos will be able to maximize his talent. Im not completely knowledgeable about what the coaching situation is in Denver or how their offensive scheme is different from what the Vikings did in 2017, but hopefully their coaches will be flexible enough to do that.

Video: Adam Schefter: Case Keenum to sign with Broncos when NFL free agency opens | SportsCenter | ESPN

2018 NFL Free Agent Grades: Part One; Expected NFL Signings

The team seemed to rally behind Keenum when he took over in Week 2. The Vikings have had so much uncertainty at the quarterback position over the past few years, and it looked to be more of the same when Sam Bradford was lost after the season opener and Keenum was thrown into the breach. I certainly dont think his leadership ability is in question. From the reports Ive been seeing, everyone in the locker room loved him, too. Im sure that winning 12 of his 16 starts had something to do with that, but Keenum seems like a genuinely decent guy and is someone that his teammates certainly came to respect after a while.

The Vikings Land Kirk Cousins, the Bears Add Firepower, and the Saints Keep Their Quarterback

His weaknesses come from his decision making. Hell tend to have a couple of throws every game that youll look at and ask yourself, What the hell was he looking at there?

He benefited greatly, in my opinion, from having a pair of wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen that were both ranked in the top five by Pro Football Focus in making contested catches. Between those two guys and tight end Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings receivers came down with a lot of 50/50 types of passes this past season that other receivers might not have been so fortunate with.

If the Broncos cant produce that kind of success when Keenum is throwing into tight windows, its going to be hard for him to replicate the success he had this past season.

Keenum never really seems to get flustered, no matter how things are going. Coupled with that is the fact that he was a bit of a magician this year when it came to avoiding sacks. There were several situations where it appeared that an opposing defense had Keenum caught behind the line of scrimmage, and Keenum would not only manage to escape, but keep the play going and get an accurate throw downfield to an open receiver.

Keenums improvisational skills are probably his greatest strength, and while it isnt something you can really build an offense around, its still a nice skill for your quarterback to have.

Yeah, I think I probably would have been. Again, he had established a pretty solid rapport with his receiving corps to this point, and those guys are all going to be around for a while. The Vikings will continue to upgrade on the offensive line, and it would have been interesting to see how Keenum would have developed under new Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo in Minnesota. I would have wanted the Vikings to have a solid backup behind him in case he couldnt quite get back to the level he showed this past season, but I think he could have remained a solid quarterback had he stayed in Minnesota rather than moving on.

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