The reported trade Thursday that sends Case Keenum from the Broncos to the Redskins can be viewed as a relatively low-cost low-upside effort by Washington to account for the expected absence this season of injured starting quarterback Alex Smith.
It can also be seen as just more shuffling of deck chairs between not just those two squads, but a pair of other NFL teams that also haven’t quite figured out the quarterback position.
Just how do the Vikings and Ravens figure into this? Let us count the ways, beginning with the fact that Keenum’s brief tenure in Denver essentially ended when the Broncos traded for longtime Baltimore starter Joe Flacco last month.
The Ravens were emboldened to banish Flacco both because of his mediocre play and the promise shown last season by Lamar Jackson, who is a threat to break a big play by running with the ball. But that can be dangerous to a quarterback’s health, as Robert Griffin III could tell him.
In fact, RGIII had every opportunity to say just that to Jackson last season when they were teammates in Baltimore. Now a free agent, Griffin wouldn’t mind returning to the Ravens this season, if his Twitter feed is any indication.
He also might have been perfectly fine with helping the Redskins shore up their depth at quarterback to judge from this juicy subtweet, posted shortly after reports emerged about the Keenum trade.
Griffin, of course, burst on to the NFL scene with the Redskins in 2012, winning AP offensive rookie of the year honors before suffering multiple knee injuries and never playing as well again. He was eventually replaced in Washington by Kirk Cousins, whose statistical accomplishments didn’t quite line up with his team’s records in the standings and apparently was slow to impress Redskins management.
After playing out his rookie contract and then spending two seasons raking in huge, one-year salaries under the franchise tag, Cousins left Washington for some truly massive money in Minnesota, specifically a three-year, $84 million deal that, in an unprecedented step for the NFL, was fully guaranteed.
His arrival with the Vikings was trumpeted as the final step to the Super Bowl, but instead, Cousins again could not win big for his team, posting an 8-7-1 record as Minnesota missed the playoffs entirely. That left Vikings fans bitterly disappointed, in large part because Minnesota managed to make it all the way to the NFC championship game the season before with nothing close to a star quarterback, but rather a journeyman by the name of … Case Keenum.
Having been kicked to the curb by the Vikings, Keenum landed on his feet in Denver. Alas, the former Texan and Ram was unable to conjure the same magic he did in 2017, but not before his signing with the Broncos compelled that team to trade its primary starter over the previous two seasons, Trevor Siemian, to (where else?) Minnesota.
So things haven’t exactly come full circle, but it could be argued that some NFL teams are spinning in circles. Also coming to mind for more than a few folks Thursday, was a metaphor inspired by a notorious maritime catastrophe.
Of course, Keenum might not actually start for Washington this season, unlike Cousins and Flacco with their respective teams. Flacco may not be a lock, either if the Broncos opt to draft a well-regarded quarterback prospect — Drew Lock? — while Washington could do the same.
In addition, the Redskins still have Colt McCoy, who might convince them that he’s their best bet. If they don’t want to expend draft capital on a quarterback, the Redskins could potentially bring back Mark Sanchez, who started a game for them last season after McCoy was injured.
Okay, they won’t do that, because he was terrible. But it was worth shoehorning Sanchez in here just to note that the last time he had an actual shot at winning a starting job was in 2016, in Denver. Unfortunately for Sanchez, he was beaten out in training camp by Siemian. And we know what happened with him.
As for Keenum, his trade also reportedly involved Washington sending a sixth-round pick in the 2020 draft for a seventh-rounder from the Broncos the same year. The teams will split his $7 million salary for this year, per reports, and he will get a $500,000 bonus from Denver for restructuring his deal.
With any luck, Keenum will rediscover his 2017 form and lead the Redskins on an unexpectedly deep playoff run. The team would likely just as soon settle for him keeping things afloat at the quarterback position — and not inviting any other Titanic metaphors.
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