The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Grading Washington's Trade for Case Keenum

The move may not draw much excitement from the fan base, but in Case Keenum, Washington gets a quarterback that has been to the NFC Championship and can at times play above replacement level.
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Now that the Broncos have secured Joe Flacco, they were clear to break-up the pre-free agency quiet by dealing his statistical doppelgänger somewhere else.

Case Keenum will now battle with Colt McCoy for the right to be Washington’s starting quarterback in 2019, in a move that may not exactly ignite the team’s fan base. It’s odd: A trade like this barely registers on the offseason Scoville scale, but has some far reaching implications across the NFL. Because no one is measuring Kyler Murray today and we have some free time, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from this one:  

THE GOOD: While Washington works aggressively to build a franchise unable to elicit sympathy from others, the injury to Alex Smith was horrific and put the franchise in a scramble. The result may not be the desired one, but the team appeared to follow a relatively pragmatic line of thinking: Evaluate the draft, keep an open mind during the combine and then get the best player you can get for a responsible price afterward.

I applaud them for not sinking any more cap space into a veteran at the top of the market. Jumping into the Nick Foles sweepstakes would have been an incredible mistake, and, if the current reports of this trade are accurate, Washington's getting a decent player who plays an important position for well below market value. 

From Mike Klis in Denver:

Broncos have trade parameters with Washington for QB Case Keenum: Broncos get WAS 6th in 2020, WAS gets Broncos 7th in '20, per source. Keenum's contract reworked. Broncos pay him $500K restructure bonus and pay $3.5 million of his $7M salary. Washington pays $3.5 mi.

That’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, Drew Stanton, Colt McCoy APY money for a player who has a higher ceiling than any of those quarterbacks and recently led a team to the NFC championship game. At best, this team is still firing straight toward the 16th pick in next year's draft, but we’ve seen how the NFC East can devour itself whole from time to time. Some seasons, 9-7 is good enough to trip into the playoffs.

It also does not prohibit Washington from taking a swing at the quarterback class in 2019, which has been panned across the board, but could contain some interesting talent in the middle rounds.

THE BAD: It’s wild how aggressively Washington pursues football purgatory each season. The middling energy that permeates from this team is almost mystic, down to the fact that it managed to find some semblance of a franchise quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft six years ago – something that isn’t easy to do! – but let him walk in free agency. The Kirk Cousins circle of life, man. He emerges on the market, making him the desired free agent of choice for the Vikings, who subsequently allowed Keenum to walk and slide in to replace Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian. Siemian then heads to Minnesota to back up Cousins, and Keenum gets hustled out of town in Denver, to ultimately reclaim the position vacated by Cousins two years ago.

All of this to say, Washington isn’t exactly pushing their chips to the center of the table here. This is the standard pivot for a team and coaching staff that needs to win in order to legitimize their operation, but cannot consider something out of the norm. Washington will not fail spectacularly this season, nor will it kick down the doors of the NFC East and win a division title. This move locks in another season in which its win total will be some combination of 7-9, 9-7, 8-8, 7-8-1 or 8-7-1.

I don’t believe in the traditional form of tanking, but with next year’s quarterback class shaping up to contain at least one potential franchise savior, there’s almost no way Washington finishes anywhere close to the running. Washington is not the Cardinals, who seem poised to install a radically different offense and experiment with the type of player the NFL has never really seen before (booming or busting spectacularly in the process), and isn’t the Jaguars, who are bulling the rest of the field over to get the most expensive traditional quarterback on the market in order to correct their fledgling offense.

THE VERDICT: C+ This trade is … fine. It doesn’t involve any major draft capital or high finances. It fills an immediate need with a player who can, at times, play above replacement level. It’s a cold seltzer when you’re in the mood for a Coca Cola. It’s hours-old McDonalds fries when you’re starving.