The Minnesota Vikings know firsthand how having a skilled, reliable backup quarterback can be a game-changer for a franchise. Finding someone to step in at a moment’s notice and do more than just move the ball efficiently downfield was a test Minnesota aced last year -- and one the Vikings hoped to repeat this free agency.
Case Keenum proved to be the most important offseason acquisition in the NFL in 2017 after he was thrown into the fire for an injured Sam Bradford in Week 2 and led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.
Aside from signing a potential franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins, viewed as the missing piece for a team in search of its first Super Bowl victory, Minnesota emphasized adding an element it had relied on heavily last season: quality depth.
It’s a big part what drove the Vikings in their search to solidify the new-look quarterback room.
It’s what led them to Trevor Siemian.
The former Broncos quarterback came to the Vikings via a trade, a move that was made official Monday. Minnesota sent its fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft in exchange for the fourth-year quarterback and a seventh-rounder this April.
Siemian embarks on the next chapter of his career in a similar position to Keenum's ahead of last year: a former starter who heads to Minnesota for a fresh start, a redefined role and an opportunity to take his career in a different direction.
It panned out as the opportunity of a lifetime for Keenum, who posted career numbers in completion percentage, passer rating, TD-INT ratio and Total QBR in Minnesota, which earned him a big payday with Denver in free agency. Siemian could be the next beneficiary of such an immense turnaround.
The former Northwestern standout took over for Peyton Manning the season after the future Hall of Famer led the Broncos to a win in Super Bowl 50. Siemian started 24 games in Denver, where he left with a 13-11 record despite struggling throughout 2017, getting benched in favor of Paxton Lynch and then being called upon to start again last December before his second shoulder injury in just more than a year ended his season.
Siemian stacked up a 59.3 completion percentage over his first three seasons and threw 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. The experience factor was critical in Minnesota’s decision to go after the former Bronco. Among the other things that stood out, according to general manager Rick Spielman, were a lot of the qualities listed off about Cousins last week: his intelligence, how quickly he gets through his progressions and reads, his decision-making and -- one element the Vikings believe they have the best chance to provide -- an opportunity for the young quarterback to grow and develop.
“We want to make sure that we have enough quality depth,” Spielman said. “You can’t have it at every position. You’re going to have to be young at some positions and coaches do a great job of developing here. But to make sure we have the quality at the quarterback position, especially the depth because at some point -- hopefully not -- when they have to step in, and it’s been like that the last couple years here, that they can step in and we can still continue to win.”
The knowledge Siemian gained under Manning and Brock Osweiler along with his own experience as a starter, particularly during the 2016 season when the Broncos ran the AFC West gantlet for several weeks, is what he hopes to contribute when he gets to team up with Cousins and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo beginning in OTAs.
Siemian is hoping to help Cousins “in any way that I can” in his new role as a backup on a franchise widely viewed as a contender after making major upgrades to its roster, which includes replenishing the depth needed for a long run.
“There’s a lot of places you could go,” Siemian said. “For me to be here in an organization who’s knocking on the door of some really, really great things, I think there’s a lot of people that would kill to be in this spot. Again, I feel really lucky and I’m going to try and add value and be ready to go if called upon.”