Training Camp Outlook: Quarterbacks

 

  • Currently On Roster: Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Taylor Heinicke, Wes Lunt, Teddy Bridgewater

 

  • Additions: Case Keenum (free agent), Wes Lunt (undrafted free agent)

 

  • Subtractions: Shaun Hill (free agency)

 

Bradford (6-4, 225, 8th season) — After head coach Mike Zimmer assured that Bradford would unquestionably be the starter entering the 2017 season, all eyes have been on the former No. 1 overall pick. Bradford had arguably the best season of his career — setting the NFL record for completion percentage (71.6). What he did last season was remarkable considering he joined the team just eight days before the season began.

Now with a full off-season under his belt and fully engaged in Pat Shumur’s offense, Bradford looks to quiet his critics with another standout season. It is Bradford’s team and the organization has surrounded him with the adequate weapons to succeed. Many are hoping he can record his first career winning record as an NFL starter, win a division crown and return the team to the playoffs.

 

Keenum (6-1, 205, 6th season) — On his third team in four seasons, Keenum comes off a season where he was inconsistent as the starter of the Los Angeles Rams. Replaced in Week 11 by eventual successor Jared Goff, Keenum seemed to once again be on the outside looking in. Coming into 2017, Keenum is expected to compete for the backup QB position behind Sam Bradford.

Despite his deficencies as a starter, Keenum seems to be a viable option as a backup. The staff seems to be fully confident that he can come in and lead the offense if their starter happens to miss an extended period of time.

 

Image result for heinicke keenum vikings

 

Heinicke (6-1, 210, 3rd season) — Suffering a surprising ankle injury after kicking in a glass door a year ago, Heinicke is fully recovered from ankle surgery. Coming into last season, he was expected to compete with long-time veteran Shaun Hill for the No. 2 spot. With the injury setback, it delayed Heinicke’s development.

The last time we saw Heinicke in an actual NFL game was during the 2015 pre-season finale vs. the Tennessee Titans. He finished an impressive 27-for-41, with 279 yards, and two touchdowns. Impressive stats for the small-school standout (Old Dominion), but it’s been an entire two years since that moment. The four games during the pre-season will be a huge measuring stick for Heinicke and if he can solidify himself as the No. 2 QB going forward.

Lunt (6-5, 225, 1st season) — As was evident last season with Joel Stave, the team is known to bring in at least one QB for training camp. Starting his career out at Oklahoma State, Lunt showed signs of promise under-center. A knee and head injury during his freshman season sidelined him during the latter half. It ultimately wound up costing him his spot at the top of the depth chart.

Frustration settled in and he attempted to transfer, but coming to the final decision that it was in his best interest to stay put for another year. Staying for one more season, he eventually transferred to Illinois where he failed to re-gain his 2014 form. Now, signed as an undrafted free agent, Lunt seems to be just a camp arm at this point for the team.

 

Bridgewater (6-2, 215, 4th season) — Prior to his catastrophic knee injury, Bridgewater was headed towards being the face of the franchise for the Vikings. Now with that in the rear-view mirror, the biggest emphasis is on Teddy getting healthy. He’s a prime candidate to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

What will be interesting to see is how his injury situation unfolds whenever he is able to come off the PUP list and what exactly the team will do. There has been mixed reviews about what exactly would make Bridgewater’s contract eligible to toll for the 2018 season, but general manager Rick Spielman has already assured the media that he’s gotten an answer from the league office.

Any player placed on a Physically Unable to Perform list (“PUP”) will be paid his full Paragraph 5 Salary while on such list. His contract will not be tolled for the period he is on PUP, except in the last year of his contract, when the player’s contract will be tolled if he is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game. 

— Article 20, Section 2 of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement

 

Outlook: Sam Bradford has already been named the starter for the 2017 season. Entering the final year of the two-year, $36 million extension he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, there are a lot of high expectations for the veteran signal-caller.

After an impressive campaign last season, he has the chance to continue to improve and build on a strong outlier season in 2016. If Bradford can improve his average depth of target (aDOT) and performances in clutch situations in the fourth quarter, Bradford has a legit argument to be the long-term solution to the team’s woes under center.

The battle for the backup QB spot will be interesting to watch develop. Heinicke is still a relatively unknown. On the other-hand, you have an experienced option in Keenum. Pre-season games will be huge for both as the team seems to be willing to let the performance in those games determine the fate of the two and who will be the backup to Bradford.

 

For NFL news and draft analysis, follow J.R. on Twitter @JReidDraftScout.

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