Whether the Washington Redskins were in the Joe Flacco sweepstakes or not, they followed the Denver Broncos path in procuring a potential starting quarterback. Thursday’s trade for Case Keenum also accomplished more than first assumed.
By trading for Keenum, a journeyman one season removed from directing the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game, the Redskins also:
1. Clarified their budget entering free agency
2. Ended the charade that they believe Colt McCoy could unequivocally serve as a Week 1 starter
3. Kept long-term options like Josh Rosen or a 2019 draft selection in play
Plenty of options existed this off-season as the Redskins sought to replace the injured Alex Smith. The truly intriguing ones like signing free agent Nick Foles or trading up in the 2019 NFL Draft for Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins and perhaps Drew Lock, would prove costly. The truly scary part involved potential bidding wars for the middle ground candidates.
Washington entered Thursday 24th overall in salary cap space ($17 million). That’s a rough number when a starting quarterback is atop a lengthy needs list. Holding tight and targeting a Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor when negotiations could begin with free agents on March 11 constitutes a plan. It also keeps uncertainty in play.
That approach wouldn’t allow the Redskins to know what kind of money they needed to squirrel away for a QB with free agency opening. Washington has major holes at safety, guard, wide receiver, edge rusher and elsewhere. Some of those need areas could wait for April’s draft, but others would get resolved in free agency.
If negotiations with Bridgewater, Taylor or other available options lingered, the Redskins might find themselves in potential limbo while negotiating with say safety Landon Collins, guard Mitch Morse or a veteran receiver. Quarterback trumps all. If you don’t have one, good luck.
The Redskins now have one -- at least one with some relatively recent success -- thanks to Thursday’s trade with the Broncos. Keenum isn’t a star. He’s in that fair-to-middling tier. Season win total projections won’t skyrocket beyond their annual .500 record.
Unlike McCoy, Keenum proved durable over the last two seasons, starting 30 consecutive games. He thrived with the Vikings during a magical 2017 season thanks to weapons surrounding him. The 31-year-old gives the Redskins a chance to be decent at the game’s most important position. This occurred without a major acquisition fee unless swapping a 2020 sixth for a seventh offends. Denver picked up $3.5 million of Keenum’s $7 million salary, meaning the Redskins limited their quarterback spending.
With Keenum in place, it’s now up to the Redskins to procure playmakers on offense, a sturdy offensive line and a defense that won’t force the offense into scoring 35 points weekly.
Keenum won’t be handed the job. McCoy might even start the opener considering his familiarity with Jay Gruden’s offense. The Redskins aren’t counting on it. For a second consecutive season, Washington was in a position to put McCoy firmly atop the positional depth chart and instead punted.
Gruden would love to give McCoy the job. The fondness is evident. So was the concern in the head coach’s answer when pressed on McCoy’s viability during his media session at the Combine.
“I have total confidence (in Colt). He's got a great knowledge of the system, he's comfortable with the guys that we have, he's a great leader, a great competitor, he can run, he can move, and he can make all the throws,” Gruden said. “But ... he's been hurt and hasn't done it."
Expect the Redskins to add another quarterback -- and keep three after last season’s emergency scenario. That won’t be Josh Johnson unless the Redskins shed McCoy, do not add a young passer or keep four quarterbacks. The last two scenarios are not credible.
Contracts for Keenum and McCoy expire after this coming season. Washington has enough draft ammo to add Rosen’s rookie contract from the Cardinals. The 10th pick in the 2018 draft, Rosen would arguably be the top QB in the 2019 class. Buzz has Arizona ready to move on with Murray its target with the first overall selection in April’s draft.
Otherwise, the Redskins could consider a QB at 15 or more likely one somewhere between rounds 2-4.
It would be a fun story and a needed PR boost if a young option emerged as the starter next season. Maybe that happens. By adding Keenum, the Redskins don’t need to rush that process.
Whatever you think of the move, it wasn’t a major surprise. Bruce Allen even foreshadowed the deal last week when asked about reports that the Redskins were interested in Flacco.
“We were never involved in Flacco,” Allen said at the Combine. “We’re looking at free agency, I don’t think it’s any secret that there's players being offered in trades from other teams. We’ve listened to that. We feel good where we’re at.”
They feel better after adding Keenum, a move that does more than just bolster their quarterback depth chart, though probably doesn’t alter their 2019 ceiling much.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Case Against Case: Why he may not be the answer
- Free Agency Tracker: All the rumors and news you need
- Free Agency or Draft?: Assessing the 'how' and 'when' of the Redskins' needs