Case Keenum Rumors: Vikings Won't Use Franchise Tag, Will Let QB Hit Free Agency

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to the bench before a play against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the NFC Divisional Playoff game on January 14, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings reportedly "are not expected" to use the franchise tag on quarterback Case Keenum and will instead allow him to hit free agency, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Rapoport added, "Barring a change of heart, Minnesota joins the fray for a starting quarterback... and will make these next few weeks fascinating."

Minnesota is indeed set for a crucial offseason. All three quarterbacks from 2017—Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater—are set to hit free agency. For a Vikings team that reached last season's NFC Championship Game, addressing the position is the most vital priority.

If the Vikings decide to pass on tagging Keenum, it could be an indication they believe they will be in the running for Kirk Cousins. The veteran is the top quarterback available in free agency, and Gil Brandt of NFL.com said of Cousins ending up in Minnesota, "If I were a betting man, I'd say that's where he lands. Certainly interest on both sides."

For many teams seeking a quarterback in free agency, Keenum is likely to be the backup plan to Cousins. It's possible the Vikings are taking the same approach, though it's obviously a risk to not franchise him, as they could end up missing out on both players.

Using the tag on Keenum would be the safer route, as it would give the team more time to negotiate a long-term extension with him and ensure it had a solid starting quarterback for 2018. But if the plan is to sign Cousins, not tagging Keenum makes sense.

Whether that decision is popular with the team's fans is another matter entirely. Keenum, 30, was a revelation for the Vikings in 2017, throwing for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 15 games, completing 67.6 percent of his passes. He came into the season as the backup to Sam Bradford, though injuries kept Bradford sidelined for most of the year and allowed Keenum the chance to seize the starting role.

Buoyed by an excellent defense and the play of wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-3 record and a playoff berth. It was a magical season, but it may not be enough to keep Keenum in Minnesota going forward.