If there was a theme for the 2017 NFL season, aside from rampant angst over protests during the national anthem, it was the massive spate of injuries suffered across seemingly all 32 teams. It was an absurd trend with which we in Houston became all too familiar — Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and on and on. However, with injury comes opportunity for the replacements, and perhaps nobody seized the brass ring more boldly than Minnesota Vikings (and former University of Houston) quarterback Case Keenum.
After Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury in September, Keenum led the Vikings to an 11-3 record in his 14 regular season starts and took them all the way to the NFC Title Game, generating a memory for the ages along the way with a touchdown pass with no time remaining to beat the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Keenum's 2017 season came on the heels of a career that defined the word "journeyman" — from the Texans' practice squad to a handful of starts for the Texans to the Rams' practice squad to a handful of starts for the Rams (with a brief two start return to the Texans in between), until signing and, finally, thriving in Minnesota.
With free agency's negotiating window beginning Monday, and with the official beginning of the signing period coming tomorrow afternoon, Keenum has reportedly agreed to a deal that presumably will bring the like-changing money — or at the very least, WAY more than Case Keenum's ever made —- that NFL starting quarterbacks receive. As first reported by ESPN.com's Adam Schefter:
When free agency opens Wednesday, former Vikings’ QB Case Keenum intends to sign with the Denver Broncos, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2018
First QB domino has fallen.
QB race is on.
In a way, this is sort of a "circle of life" moment for Keenum, whose biggest cheerleader in the Denver war room was probably Gary Kubiak. The former Texans and Broncos head coach has taken on an increased role in personnel in Denver, and was Keenum's first head coach in his NFL career, when Keenum signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and started eight games for the Texans in 2013.
The biggest quarterback domino to fall in free agency will likely be Kirk Cousins, who reportedly had his finalists down to Denver, Arizona, Minnesota, and the New York Jets. However, Cousins is going to take his time and visit his suitors, a process Denver apparently didn't want to endure. The Broncos still have two quarterbacks under contract in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, so Keenum's signing in Denver likely means the end of Brock Osweiler's time as a Bronco, as the former Texans is a free agent, but was hoping to return to Denver. (Insert laugh track here.)
As for the Houston Texans, there haven't been any firm confirmations of contracts that will be agreed to when free agency begins as of yet. The closest news item we have to the Texans taking a confirmed swing at someone came from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network yesterday:
The #Texans are the favorites to sign former #Chiefs OL Zach Fulton to a multi-year deal worth more than $7M per year, source said. He should play center for them. Other teams are in the mix, but Houston is the likely landing spot.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2018
...with a follow up from John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
If Texans sign KC’s Zach Fulton he’ll play guard. Nick Martin is their center and the only starting o lineman guaranteed of his job next season.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 12, 2018
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The Texans are also in the middle of a bidding war for Patriots' left tackle Nate Solder, according to McClain and others:
Texans are making a strong run at LT Nate Solder. They’re desperate for a new LT. They started 5 LTs last season.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 12, 2018
One player believed to be on the Texans' radar was Panthers' guard Andrew Norwell, but he will be headed to Jacksonville on a five year, $65.5 million deal. So cross him off the list. So as Malcolm Butler, Trumaine Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Justin Pugh, and others marinate on the shelf, Texan fans wait for some good news. After a rough 4-12 season, we could use some.
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