Case Keenum: We'll cross free agency road eventually

Case Keenum's wild and unexpected ride came to a sudden end with Sunday night's loss in the NFC Championship Game.

That's often how the playoffs are: unforgiving, abrupt and for scores of players, fleeting.

The quarterback hasn't even had 24 hours to process what exactly went wrong (though he's tried) before being asked about his future. It's a murky one, with free agency immediately ahead, but a possibility of returning to the Vikings remains.

That possibility at least factually remains for all three of Minnesota's quarterbacks: Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. But which one, if anyone, ends up sticking around?

"Yeah, I haven't really thought too much about it," Keenum said of his plans for 2018 and beyond. "I love this team. I love these guys. I love the coaching staff. I love this whole organization. The Wilfs [the team's owners] are awesome.

"The day I signed, I get a call from the owner -- and they don't have to do that. That's really cool. And from the top down, that trickles down, just the attitude and the character, and just the culture they have around here is awesome."

Winning makes any culture better than most, especially for a career backup who becomes the one leading the surge of success. There's no guarantee, even with Keenum's 2017 -- 325-of-481 passing, 3,546 yards, 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions -- the quarterback is even wanted back in Minnesota, especially after Sunday's disaster.

"It stings," Keenum said of the loss to Philadelphia. "Like I said last night, it's going to take a while to process. A little more perspective this morning after sleeping on it, not getting much sleep. I watched the film and it still sucks."

Keenum doesn't have a track record of such success beyond 2017, turns 30 next month and will undoubtedly command a somewhat significant amount of money from a quarterback-needy team. Understandably, the Vikings might be wary of meeting such a potential financial commitment.

For perspective, consider this: Bradford entered the season the unquestioned starter. Bridgewater's future was still very uncertain. Keenum was only brought in as insurance, the usual backup a team hopes can be dependable in case of emergency.

Emergency struck in Week 2, but turned into the new normal when Keenum started 14 of Minnesota's 16 regular-season games and excelled. It was a pleasant surprise that produced a memorable season for the Vikings, but also created this conundrum at the position.

It seems as though Bradford is at this point an afterthought (though that could change with the tides of free agency), boiling the decision down to Keenum and Bridgewater, with the latter saying he definitely sees himself as a starter somewhere in 2018. Each are far from guaranteed to pan out for Minnesota. The Vikings could even let all three walk and try their hand at acquiring Alex Smith, or signing Kirk Cousins.

"Right now there are no priorities -- it's rest, reload," Keenum said of what's important in the coming weeks for him. "Take some time away and enjoy it with my family, and we'll cross those roads when we get there."

What's certain is no one is bringing the magic of 2017 back for one more kickoff. We'll see if any of the quarterbacks return to run it back in 2018.

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