Just as the Minnesota Vikings jumped hot out of the gate, news came along that could derail the team’s season. In a storyline that can only be described as ‘totally Vikings,’ the team announced that starting quarterback Sam Bradford would sit out Week 2 with a bone bruise on his left knee, which has been surgically repaired twice due to ACL injuries.
The news left the team reeling after appearing to be on the right track folloeing a statement win in Week 1 over the New Orleans Saints and a roller coaster 2016 season. No one is quite sure when Bradford could return to the field. He is officially listed as day-to-day, but head coach Mike Zimmer admitted that Bradford could be out for several weeks. Bradford will again sit out Week 3 as the Vikings take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home.
Bradford again will sit out Week 3 as the Vikings take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. He is also seeking a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who repaired running back Adrian Peterson’s knee in 2011.
If there’s one thing in the NFL that no team likes, it is uncertainty at quarterback, and the news of Bradford’s fine-but-not-quite knee has many speculating on what the Vikings might do under center. Everything appeared to be in place for success after Week 1, so how might the team react in an effort to remain competitive for the season? Let’s explore the Vikings immediate options at quarterback.
After his Week 1 accolade as NFC Player of the Week, many fans were pushing for the team to offer Bradford a contract extension beyond this season. Approaching 30 years old and now in his eighth season, the ambiguity of an aggravated knee injury following two ACL surgeries raises questions to Bradford’s long-term viability in the NFL. He is undoubtedly capable when he is healthy, but will his knee hold up as he ages?
If the team had no other options, it would make sense to simply wait out Bradford’s knee, but the ‘what if’ questions of the NFL must be answered.
In Bradford’s stead, Keenum completed 20-of-37 passes (54.1 pct) for 167 yards in the Vikings 26-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. Keenum didn’t throw any touchdowns, but he didn’t have any turnovers either. His performance was near-average for his career. In 25 starts, he has completed 58.2 percent of passes for 215 yards per game, totaling 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
For Keenum to stay under center in place of Bradford, all he has to do is remain on par. In Week 2, he did the best he could do given the circumstances. But, in the NFL it is often not that simple.
Keenum’s average-but-uninspiring performance prompted some fans to call for rookie Kyle Sloter to take the field. He started his senior year for the Northern Colorado Bears of the NCAA’s Big Sky Conference, leading the team to a 6-5 (4-4) finish.
He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos for the preseason. He completed 31-of-43 passes (72.1 pct) for 413 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions in four exhibition appearances. He was claimed by the Vikings off the Broncos practice squad after Week 1 before Minnesota announced Bradford’s uncertain status.
While Sloter sounds like he could be worth a shot, keep in mind that he is a rookie who has been with the team for two weeks. His ability is unknown, at best, which doesn’t bode well for a rookie quarterback with no offseason preparation in Minnesota’s system. For now, he is a warm body at practice and will probably stay that way as long as the team can help it.
Yes, Bridgewater is an option to come back this season. He is currently listed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but he could return after Week 6. This scenario was confirmed by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, but it might not be ideal for the Vikings or the long-term health of Bridgewater, but it could happen.
However, Bridgewater will likely only return as an on-the-field option if Bradford’s short-term injury goes long and both the team and Bridgewater are comfortable with the condition of his knee.
Regardless of the professional experience and ability of a potential free agent signing, a quarterback signed off the street will still be behind the curve in preparation to start. Fans might be anxious to see who else is out there, but do they remember the failed Josh Freeman experiment in 2013?
Despite the past, there are a few options the team could consider. (Or, maybe they already have?)
- Colin Kaepernick: Like Bradford, few would doubt his ability to start, but the spotlight on his recent national anthem protests is likely too much for any team to consider in a backup or temporary role. 70 percent of NFL fans said they disapprove of his protests and the market of NFL scouts and general managers have responded in kind.
- Robert Griffin III: His numbers have been mediocre since his breakout rookie season in 2012. He lost his starting job to Colt McCoy with the Washington Redskins in 2014 and has been mired by injuries since then. He might be serviceable in the right conditions, but with Bradford and Bridgewater already questionable with injuries, the Vikings probably won’t risk putting another quarterback made of glass on the field.
- Tony Romo: He has found success in the broadcast booth, and after a pair of back injuries that kept him out for most of the last two seasons, he probably doesn’t want to risk his health himself. Even if a team did call with a serious offer, he would probably say no.
What will most likely happen?
The Vikings will probably ride out Keenum until Bradford is ready and as long as Keenum himself minimizes mistakes. If Bradford’s injury keeps him out past Week 6, the team could seriously consider bringing back Bridgewater.
If Keenum is injured and Bradford remains out, the team could trade a midround draft pick for a stop-gap quarterback or pick their poison with one of the three aforementioned free agents.
What we do know for sure is that anything can happen week-to-week in the NFL.
Brad Omland is a writer and radio producer. He has previously covered the Vikings for EndZoneScore.com and KOOL 108. His work has also appeared on Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.