Case Keenum

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Cooper, Conley, Broncos, Keenum, Chiefs, Berry

There’s been several high profile names rumored to be trade candidates over the past week, including Raiders receiver Amari Cooper. It was reported earlier today that the Raiders were shopping the former first round pick, but now coach Jon Gruden is pushing back on those reports.

“I’m not. I’m not. I’m just sorry to have to deal with a lot of these reports” Gruden insisted when asked about the reports saying he wanted to get rid of Cooper, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Cooper was injured in the Raiders’ loss to the Seahawks after taking a nasty hit and was diagnosed with a concussion. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal but has a fifth-year option for next year, meaning any team that traded for him would have control of him in 2019. Gruden also previously insisted he wasn’t trying to trade Khalil Mack, so perhaps his denials should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Case Keenum had another rough game, prompting reporters to ask coach Vance Joseph after the game if Keenum would remain the starter for the Broncos. Joseph answered affirmatively, saying “Case is our quarterback”, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (Twitter link). Keenum left for one play to be evaluated for a concussion, and the home crowd gave backup Chad Kelly a standing ovation. With the Broncos a sinking ship and Joseph on the hot seat, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kelly gets a look at some point.
  • Speaking of Oakland, the Raiders have benched their 2017 first round pick, cornerback Gareon Conley, playing him on zero defensive snaps in their Week 6 loss. Conley could be a possible trade target, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, who tweets that “teams looking to buy low on Conley will be calling.” Gruden has shown a willingness to get rid of high-profile players, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team gives up on Conley despite his limited time on the field. He missed most of his rookie season due to injury.
  • Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry has mysteriously missed every game this season without much of an update from the team, and he is still without a timetable for a return, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Sources told La Canfora that the team is “extremely confident that he will play this season”, but no one seems to know when and the team will continue to “exude extreme caution” handling him. The Chiefs defense has been a liability this season, and would get a massive boost from Berry’s return.

Broncos Notes: Keenum, Draft, Joseph, OL

Case Keenum‘s gotten off to a rough start with the Broncos, going from being the No. 1 DVOA quarterback during a potential outlier 2017 season to sitting 24th in that metric and 31st in Total QBR through five games this season. However, this is unlikely to produce a Chad Kelly promotion in the near future, with Albert Breer of SI.com noting the sense he’s getting is any such switch won’t come until the team falls out of contention. Denver won its first two games but has lost its past three, and Vance Joseph is now 1-9 on the road after the Broncos dropped Week 3 and Week 5 games in Baltimore and New Jersey. The Broncos may have discussed Kelly, who has never attempted a regular-season pass but fared well in the preseason. But Breer adds Joseph and John Elway are tied to Keenum thanks to the $25MM in fully guaranteed money the journeyman passer’s making on his current deal. Keenum’s on pace to throw more than 600 passes, and the Broncos have oddly turned to the weaker component of their offense more so than committing to their strong ground attack that ranks third (137 yards per game).

Here’s the latest out of Denver:

  • It’s likely Elway will have to look for yet another post-Peyton Manning solution in 2019, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes. The Broncos have cycled through an unlikely successor (Trevor Siemian), a spectacular first-round misstep (Paxton Lynch), a retread (Brock Osweiler) and now Keenum. Elway and Broncos player personnel director Matt Russell are in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday for a Washington-Oregon game that features possible top 2019 QB prospect Justin Herbert, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Several teams are in attendance for this Pac-12 matchup, per Klis, who adds the Broncos figure to be looking at cornerbacks and tackles as early-round possibilities as well.
  • An interesting indictment of Pro Football Focus appears to be coming out of Denver this week. The acclaimed advanced-metrics site has Broncos right guard Connor McGovern rated as the No. 4 overall guard in football (and No. 1 in run-blocking), but OC Bill Musgrave said (via Klis) Max Garcia will take some of McGovern’s snaps this week against the Rams. McGovern struggled at times against Leonard Williams, and Garcia — a starter from 2016-17 and a player not graded nearly as well by PFF — may start this week, per Joseph, against the Rams’ menacing defensive front. This would be a curious move for a team that’s running the ball as well as it is.
  • Volin also doesn’t view Broncos president Joe Ellisstatement this week as a ringing Joseph endorsement, pointing to the team’s once-vaunted defense struggling against the run vs. Jets backs and entering Week 6 with just 11 sacks (19th) despite having used a No. 5 overall pick on Bradley Chubb. Elway hired Joseph, a career defensive-based coach, after one season of DC experience. The Broncos’ pre-Week 10 bye slate features a home game against the Rams, a Thursday road assignment in Arizona, a road matchup in Kansas City and a return home to face the Texans. With Joseph looking like a two-and-done coach at this point, this will be a pivotal stretch for the embattled leader.

West Notes: Ray, Rivers, Thomas

Most of the fifth-year option decisions this offseason were no-brainers, but what the Broncos would do with respect to Shane Ray‘s 2019 option was a little tougher to predict. Ultimately, Denver chose to decline the option, which means that Ray will be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, and head coach Vance Joseph believes that the chance to hit the open market will make the Missouri product especially motivated to produce at a high level this year.

Joseph said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post), “[Ray] is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year (early in training camp) he was on his way to having a great year. I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do.”

As O’Halloran notes, however, this could be Ray’s last season with the Broncos regardless of how he performs. If he does well, he could price himself out of Denver’s budget, and if he struggles, the Broncos may not want him back anyway.

Now for more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Joseph is not only impressed with Ray’s effort level this spring; he is also pleased by what he has seen from the Broncos‘ marquee free agent signing, Case Keenum. Joseph said (via the same piece linked above), “[W]atching Case the last couple of weeks on the field, man, he’s a lot better than I remember. It’s definitely a good thing to watch him lead the guys and watch the guys respond to him. It’s refreshing for all of us to be in the presence of a veteran quarterback who has command. I think everyone is loving the fact we have a quarterback in place that can lead this team from spot 1, and that’s good for all of us.” 
  • In response to a reader’s question as to when the Chargers should plan for Philip Rivers‘ retirement, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com suggests that it won’t be anytime soon, and that Rivers could play for another five years. After all, Rivers, 36, has already indicated he would like to play for a few more seasons, the club has not drafted a QB since 2013, and in addition to his continuing strong performance, he has not lost an ounce of motivation or even mentioned retirement, per quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. And, as Williams notes, Rivers — who has not missed a start in more than a decade — predicates his game on anticipation and moving within the pocket, so loss of speed is not a huge issue.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, whom the Chargers selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft, was primarily a special teams contributor in his rookie campaign, but as Williams notes, Los Angeles is giving the Miami product a shot at free safety this offseason. The team is intrigued by his athleticism, speed, and physicality, and the hope is that he can use those qualities to become a consistent presence on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Whether the Seahawks will trade Earl Thomas this offseason has been something of an open question over the past few months, but it sounds as if his next contract — he is eligible for free agency next year — will not come from Seattle. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, even though Thomas will command top dollar, the Seahawks could pay him if they wanted to. But in light of Thomas’ age (29), the fact that the team is in something of a retooling phase, and what has happened to some of the Seahawks’ older players over the last few years, Seattle seems unlikely to make the kind of commitment that Thomas is looking for.

Poll: Which Team Best Addressed QB Spot This Offseason?

This turned out to be an important year for quarterback acquisitions. Many teams’ short- and long-term futures will depend heavily on the players they added over the past two months.

A fourth of the NFL made major investments in outside talent at the quarterback position this offseason. Which team did you think is in the best position after all the dominoes fell?

Three teams acquired their unquestioned starters via trade or free agency. The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith ensured they were not going to pick a quarterback in the draft. As did the Vikings’ subsequent Kirk Cousins agreement. The Broncos entered the draft as a borderline QB destination, but John Elway valued Bradley Chubb more than Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, eschewing a Bills offer that would have given his team extra first- and second-round picks. So, Case Keenum is going to be Denver’s starter.

Four of the five teams that used first-round picks on quarterbacks made sure to add bridge-type solutions, with the Browns moving first to get Tyrod Taylor. The Jets and Cardinals then respectively proceeded to bring in Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And the Bills made the final stopgap addition in A.J. McCarron. But these players, for the most part, are 2018 placeholders — at best.

Was Baker Mayfield worth the No. 1 overall pick? Or did the Browns make what could turn out to be the costliest of their spree of modern quarterback misjudgments last month? Several Cleveland executives independently rated Mayfield as the draft’s premier passer, going against the grain of the many teams that viewed Sam Darnold as this year’s top passing prospect. The Jets appear to have appreciated this bold move, and Darnold is almost certainly going to see extensive time in 2018. PFR readers believe he will.

The Bills worked the phones relentlessly in an effort to install Allen behind McCarron, and the Cardinals reportedly had the Wyoming prodigy rated as their top QB as well. But Allen could need extensive seasoning, and as of now, a returning playoff team has a fifth-year player with 133 career pass attempts set to open the season and possibly close it as the starter.

Conversely, the player the Cardinals invested in was tabbed by many draft experts as the readiest pro. And Bradford being in front of Rosen for 16 games may be asking a lot from the injury-prone veteran. The Ravens are already planning Jackson packages, and although the player whom some teams wanted to work out as a wide receiver may need a season to develop, this draft’s most dominant college QB resides in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

Armed with one of the league’s most talented rosters, Minnesota had the most obvious case to pursue a veteran. And the Vikings made history by authorizing a $28MM-AAV fully guaranteed deal for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins, who may be the safest option among all of these players. But he’s now the league’s second-highest-paid passer and tethered to the Vikings through 2020. Smith is coming off his best NFL season, but his Chiefs teams disappointed in two home playoff opportunities. Washington could also be much further away from contention than Minnesota, and the Redskins have now brought in quarterback who for all the stability he offers is four years older.

It’s debatable the Broncos’ contention window could still be open, with many of their core Super Bowl 50 performers still on the team and having played the past two seasons without much help at quarterback. But a 5-11 team armed with only its second top-five pick since 1992 passing on two coveted QB prospects to pursue the 30-year-old Keenum, a late-blooming talent or a player who benefited from better circumstances, could also be classified as a bold choice as Rosen and Allen’s careers unfold. The Broncos only committed to Keenum for two years and are paying Football Outsiders’ No. 4 2017 DYAR passer $10MM less per year than Cousins commanded.

So, with all things considered, which of these franchises is best set up after this offseason? Did one of the teams that spent a first-round pick on a QB ensure a decade and then some of stability and promise? Or did the teams that went strictly for vets get this right? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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Broncos Notes: Keenum, Harris, Draft, Dixon

Mock drafts have gone in numerous directions regarding the Broncos‘ No. 5 overall pick, and it’s possible the team could make yet another big investment at the position. But if they do, Case Keenum will not be ceding the reins anytime soon. John Elway confirmed that if the Broncos do select a quarterback at No. 5 overall the recently signed quarterback would be the unquestioned first-stringer.

Case is our starter,’’ Elway said, via Mike Klis of 9News. “We’ll cross that road when we get there. Every situation for young quarterbacks is different. I think it’s different in today’s world, and the fact that it depends on what kind of football team those guys step onto.”

The 2016 Eagles thrust Carson Wentz into duty from the start because they traded Sam Bradford, whereas the 2017 Bears allowed Mike Glennon four starts before turning to Mitch Trubisky. It can be expected Keenum will have a longer leash, if the Broncos opt to bypass a top-tier non-QB.

Here’s the latest out of Denver:

  • The Broncos have gotten All-Pro work from Chris Harris for No. 2 cornerback money over the past three seasons. They’ve agreed to incentivize the eighth-year corner’s deal, and Klis details what that will entail. Harris was a first-team All-Pro in 2016 and a second-teamer in Denver’s Super Bowl season; should he land on one of those two teams this year, he’ll earn $500K. Harris can collect $200K for a two-interception season, and if he reaches five picks, Klis reports that bumps up to $500K. Harris has intercepted two passes in each of the past three seasons. Interestingly, the Broncos’ win total will impact their top corner as well. Klis reports Harris playing 65 percent of Denver’s snaps and the team winning six games will mean a $300K bonus, with a 75 percent snap season and eight Bronco wins meaning that spikes to $600K. Harris, who has an $8.5MM base salary in 2018, has been a full-time player for the past six seasons. If Denver returns to the playoffs, the soon-to-be 29-year-old DB earns $300K.
  • Prior to their trade earlier tonight, the Broncos and Giants had been circling each other about a deal for Riley Dixon for a bit now, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Klis reports (via Twitter) Vance Joseph told the incumbent punter the day the team signed Marquette King he would be moved. Multiple teams were interested in the third-year specialist, per Klis.
  • Elway appears to have evolved on his affinity for cannon-armed QBs. The addition of Keenum, who does not have an upper-echelon arm the way Paxton Lynch does, marked a change of pace for a GM that’s targeted tall passers with strong arms. “I was a lot more six or seven years ago, but then we had Peyton (Manning), right?’’ Elway said, via Klis. “Peyton was more of the cerebral type. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been doing this job as far as what certain quarterbacks have success with.”
  • However, the GM that traded Tim Tebow after a memorable season doesn’t regard it as a must to have a mobile quarterback. “The bottom line is that I believe the one thing is that you got to be able to win from the pocket,” the eighth-year exec said. “You can win games, but you can’t win championships unless you have the ability to win it from the pocket. Then if you can get out and move around and create, and do those types of things then that’s an added bonus.” While the Broncos have been connected to Baker Mayfield, an earlier report indicated they were high on Josh Rosen — the least mobile of the top four QBs in this class.

Baker Mayfield To Meet With Seven Teams

Baker Mayfield‘s April figures to be busy. The Oklahoma signal caller will meet with the Browns, Bills, Jets, Giants, Dolphins, Broncos, and Cardinals, Robert Klemko of The MMQB reports. 

The Giants will sit down with Mayfield before the Jets, Manish Mehta of the Daily News adds. He’ll meet with the G-Men on April 8 and 9 before continuing his pre-draft tour with the Jets on April 9 and 10. The Jets conducted a private workout with Mayfield in Oklahoma on March 24, fueling speculation that he could be among the QBs in consideration for them at No. 3 overall.

Mayfield was last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but some evaluators question whether he has the height to succeed at the next level. There are also some character concerns thanks to his actions during games against Ohio State and Kansas and a public intoxication arrest.

Most of the teams in this bunch were expected to show interest in Mayfield, but the Dolphins and Broncos are not obvious fits for him given the presence of Ryan Tannehill and Case Keenum, respectively. The Cardinals make more sense for Mayfield since Sam Bradford is not necessarily a long-term answer under center and the Bills are also a logical fit since they are not completely locked in on A.J. McCarron as their starter for 2018. Unlike the Dolphins and Cardinals, the Bills have ample ammo to move up for Mayfield with the Nos. 12 and No 22 picks in their possession.

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Broncos To Sign Case Keenum

The Broncos have agreed to sign Case Keenum, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It’s a two-year deal for at $36MM, as Mike Florio of PFT details. All $36MM of the deal is guaranteed for injury and $25MM of the contract is fully guaranteed.

We heard on Monday that Keenum might not wait for Kirk Cousins to sign first and that is exactly the case. Keenum saw an opportunity and an offer that he liked with the Broncos, and he took it.

The deal means that there are likely three teams in on Cousins – the Jets, Vikings, and Cardinals. The Broncos were thought to be suitors, but Cousins was apparently too rich for their blood.

One year ago, no one would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career.

The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy GaroppoloAaron RodgersMarcus MariotaMatthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. The Broncos, of course, are in the latter camp.

Keenum, a career journeyman who inked a one-year, $2MM pact with Minnesota last offseason, posted the best season of his career in 2017 while leading the Vikings’ offense to a No. 5 finish in offensive DVOA. The 30-year-old ranked seventh in passer rating and ninth in adjusted net yards per completion during the 2017 regular season, and finished first in Football Outsiders‘ individual DVOA metric.

Keenum now reunites with Broncos senior personnel advisor Gary Kubiak, who brought him into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Texans and eventually made him his starting quarterback. Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was also on that same Texans coaching staff.

[RELATED: Broncos Depth Chart]

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FA Notes: Smith, Keenum, Irving, Waddle

After being named as a suspect in an alleged domestic violence incident, the Raiders released linebacker Aldon Smith last week. Today, the edge rusher pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, according to TMZ Sports (via Scott Bair NBC Sports Bay Area on Twitter). The 28-year-old is currently facing “misdemeanor counts of domestic violence, assault, false imprisonment and vandalism.”

The former Pro Bowler hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2015, when he compiled 28 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and three passes defended in nine games (seven starts) for Oakland. Despite re-signing with the organization in 2016, Smith still hasn’t been reinstated. Smith was originally issued a one-year suspension for a hit-and-run incident in 2015.

Let’s take a look at some other notes pertaining to NFL free agency…

  • Former Vikings starter Case Keenum is pursuing a multi-year, guaranteed deal, reports Mike Jurecki of 98.7FM in Arizona (via Twitter). Meanwhile, former teammate Teddy Bridgewater is reportedly looking for a two-year deal.
  • ESPN’s Todd Archer reports that the Cowboys are likely to place a tender on restricted free agent David Irving tomorrow. The front office is still deciding whether they should slap the defensive tackle with a first- or second-round tender, which is the difference of about $1.2MM. Despite playing in only eight games, the 24-year-old arguably had his best NFL season in 2017, compiling 22 tackles and seven sacks. Irving missed eight games due to suspension and a concussion.
  • It’s unlikely the Patriots and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle agree to a deal before Wednesday, reports NESN’s Doug Kyed (via Twitter). The 26-year-old is likely to test free agency following a 2017 campaign that saw him play in 12 games (four starts). While the lineman played 380 snaps, Pro Football Focus ranked him 64th among 81 eligible offensive tackle candidates.
  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets that the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Colts, Broncos, and Redskins are among the teams looking to add a defensive tackle. The reporter lists free agents Dontari Poe, Star Lotulelei, and Sheldon Richardson as potential targets.

Keenum Might Not Wait For Cousins To Sign

Popular thought has been that Case Keenum would have to wait for Kirk Cousins to sign with a team before inking a contract of his own. That’s not the case, at least in Keenum’s mind. If Keenum receives a strong offer right out of the gate, he is prepared to take it, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). 

Of course, the call is not up to just Keenum. There figures to be a good amount of overlap between his market and Cousins’ with Keenum as the Plan B – or even Plan C – behind this year’s top free agent. But, it’s notable that Keenum does not intend on waiting for Cousins to set the market. Instead, Keenum likely figures that Cousins’ contract will not have a great deal of bearing on his own.

To a large degree, that is true. Cousins is expected to become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time on a yearly basis with a deal that many have an unprecedented amount of guaranteed cash. Keenum, meanwhile, should garner more than $20MM per season, but nothing close to Cousins.

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Bills Interested In Sam Bradford, Case Keenum

The Bills have interest in both Sam Bradford and Case Keenum, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Pelissero adds that the Bills see Bradford as a good scheme fit. 

The Bills are in need of a quarterback after shipping Tyrod Taylor to the Browns. The third-round pick they picked up in the deal (No. 65 overall) could help them find a new QB on the trade block, but they are intent on first exploring their options in free agency. With upwards of $32MM in cap space, the Bills theoretically have room to sign someone of Bradford or Keenum’s stature.

With Taylor off the roster, the Bills will be down to one quarterback in Nathan Peterman when the new league year opens on Wednesday. Third-string quarterback Joe Webb is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Peterman — a fifth-round pick in 2017 — made four appearances as a rookie, including two starts. The 23-year-old struggled, though, throwing five interceptions and completing 49% of his passes.

Kirk Cousins‘ landing spot could also have an effect on the Bills’ pursuit of Keenum or Bradford. The Vikings are reportedly expected to Cousins their first priority this offseason. If they were to miss out on Cousins, though, that could open up the possibility of a reunion with Keenum and Bradford, along with Teddy Bridgewater.

Keenum, 30, started 14 games last year for the Vikings, completing a career-high 67.6% of his passes while throwing 22 touchdowns to seven interceptions and leading the team to the NFC Championship Game. Bradford started the other two games for the Vikings, missing most of the season with a knee injury.

Bradford, 30, was activated in time for the postseason, though, to serve as Keenum’s backup. He was given assurance of the structure of the ligaments in his ailing knee in November by Dr. James Andrews after a procedure to shave a bone spur and clean out fluid.

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