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Vikings not expected to franchise tag Case Keenum

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Add Minnesota to the list of teams heat-seeking a new starting quarterback.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Vikings are not expected to apply the franchise tag to Case Keenum, allowing last year's breakout starter to hit free agency, per sources with knowledge of the team's thinking.

Barring a change of heart, Minnesota will join the list of clubs open to starting anew under center, with free-agent mega-prize Kirk Cousins coming into view as a legitimate target for the team's Super Bowl-ready roster.

NFL.com's Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys executive, suggested Monday on Twitter that: "If I were a betting man, I'd say (Minnesota is) where he lands. Certainly interest on both sides."

NFL Network's Mike Garafolo echoed Brandt's sentiments on Up to the Minute Live on Monday: "The Minnesota Vikings are going to be players for Kirk Cousins. I have been told that by numerous sources the whole way. I'm not saying they're going to land him. I do believe that they have a great pitch to make to him as far as look at our defense, look at our targets, look at everything we've got. You can come in here and compete right away, the money is going to be what the money is going to be, we've talked about upwards of $30 million per season because you rarely see a quarterback like this hit the open market. But the Minnesota Vikings are going to make a strong push for Kirk Cousins, you can absolutely bet."

Cousins is expected to command a vast mountain of cash on the open market, but the Vikings have more than enough loot to make it happen, sitting ninth overall in cap space as of this writing, per OverTheCap.com.

The Jets can offer more money up front, but Cousins would have the chance to take the controls of an NFC power in Minnesota. Armed with a championship-level defense and a laundry list of weapons on offense, the Vikings simply offer more than Gang Green from the standpoint of immediate on-field success.

The Vikings went into the offseason with a trio of passers -- Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford -- all set to hit the open market. With Keenum being allowed to walk, the team could still choose to keep Bridgewater, their 2014 first-round pick, with a less-expensive deal. Sam Bradford, meanwhile, has worked previously with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. In the end, they could also choose to re-sign Keenum, but the club appears less than fired up to bring him back on a long-term deal.

With this week's NFL Scouting Combine set to launch in Indianapolis, the Vikings and Cousins sit at the epicenter of the league's swirling cauldron of rumors, gossip and hot-to-the-touch whispers.

Don't go anywhere. The quarterback carousel is just heating up.

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