The Chicago Bears are at a crossroads. After delivering a dud in 2019, they must make changes at important positions to get back on the winning track. One way to achieve that goal is through free agency. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more promising and available targets to see if there’s a fit for the Bears in 2020.
Potential Target, Age (in 2020), Position
Casey Austin Keenum, 32, quarterback
Season stats: 10 games (8 starts), 160/247 (64.8%), 1,707 passing yards, 11 TD, 5 INT, 91.3 rating
Pro Football Focus grade: 55.0, 34th of 37 qualifying quarterbacks
Keenum opened the season as Washington’s starting quarterback because rookie Dwayne Haskins wasn’t where he needed to be in order to be given the keys. But between injuries (he suffered a foot injury playing against the Bears on MNF in Week 3) and regime change (Head Coach Jay Gruden was fired in October), Keenum’s time as starter was limited.
Performance Before 2019
Stats: 57 games (54 starts), 1,144/1,844 (62%), 12,661 yards, 64 TD, 42 INT, 84.5 rating
Pro Football Focus grades: 60.9 (2013), 54.7 (2014), 69.9 (2015), 58.9 (2016), 81.4 (2017), 70.0 (2018)
Keenum’s path to this point is one that I’m not sure anyone has traveled, so let’s follow this journey:
- Two-star recruit coming out of high school
- Won the Sammy Baugh Trophy (given to college football’s best passer) (twice), Conference USA MVP (twice) while enrolled at the University of Houston (where he played parts of five seasons)
- Finished his college career with the following NCAA records: completions (1,546), passing yards (19,217), passing touchdowns (155), games with 300+ passing yards (39), most games with 300+ passing yards in one season (14), most 5,000+ yard passing seasons (3), career passing yards (20,114), total touchdowns responsible for (178)
- Went undrafted in 2012, but elevated from QB3 to starter in 2013 (0-8 record, though) due to injuries
- The 2014 season that started with Keenum on the Rams after being waived by the Texans when they traded for Ryan Mallett, but ended with Keenum back with the Texans after being signed off St. Louis’ practice squad
- Given the backup gig to Nick Foles with his second stint with the Rams in 2015, was handed the starting job in 2016
- Ended 2016 on the bench when Jared Goff was deemed ready to play
- Signed with the Vikings to backup Sam Bradford in 2017, but led them to 11 wins and playoff berth as a starter before falling to the Eagles (led by Foles) in the NFC Championship game
- Signed a two-year contract with the Broncos in 2018, throwing for a career best 3,890 passing yards (but finishing with a 6-10 record)
- Traded to Washington in 2019 to replace Alex Smith and serve as a placeholder for Dwayne Haskins (who was drafted a month later)
Keenum is a journeyman who has shown an impressive amount of resolve to go with a respectable level of competence at the quarterback position. Nothing will match his 2017 season when he completed 67.7 percent of his passes, threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions while posting an impressive 98.3 passer rating. But I tip my cap to a guy who took this Vikings core to the NFC title game when Kirk Cousins – when given the same core – has just one playoff win in two years.
Possible Contract Considerations
Keenum doesn’t crack PFF’s top-100 free agents and isn’t expected to break the bank with his next deal. In fact, a projection from OverTheCap.com envisions his next contract being a one-year pact worth up to $11 million and includes just $6 million guaranteed. That’s a relative buy-low bargain for a veteran starter who is a clear upgrade at the QB2 position.
Keenum gives off high-end QB2 vibes, which will likely make him somewhat of a commodity in the eyes of a contender.
As a career journeyman, Keenum can slide into the QB2 role with ease. And that he could do so while allowing Mitch Trubisky to get a clear shot at earning his starting role in 2020 would likely be a perceived plus from the viewpoint of a front office that hitched its wagons to Trubisky on draft night 2017. The bonus would be that Keenum is a seasoned backup with extensive starting experience. So if Trubisky was unable to keep his grasp on the starting gig, Keenum has ample experience filling in, taking what the defense gives him, and playing the role of bridge quarterback.
There is something about competent play from a reserve that strikes me as important, so whomever the Bears bring in as QB2 needs to be able to provide that upon arrival. All things being equal, Keenum can be that guy. But asking for anything more out of him would be a mistake.