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Lunchbreak: ESPN Views Keenum Signing as 1 of NFL's Most Underrated Moves

Perhaps the most fun and busiest time of the offseason comes when free agency opens up with a frenzy.

Teams rush to sign available players, restocking their roster with talent or looking to add that one piece that could help them go on a deep playoff run.

Dan Graziano of ESPN recently wrote that he enjoys the mid-March madness, but noted that sometimes its better to critique the moves in hindsight.

Fortunately, the season plays out, and we were blessed with the ability to apply hindsight. That's what we're here to do today.

Let's take a look back at 2017 in the NFL — specifically through the lens of which moves turned out to be overrated and which turned out to be underrated. It's a trip down memory lane. Whether it's a fun one depends on how things worked out for your particular team.

Graziano noted which moves paid off and which ones didn't, and included the Vikings signing of quarterback Case Keenum as one of the offseason's most underrated additions.

Graziano wrote:

The offseason quarterback questions in Minnesota were about whether Sam Bradford could continue to play well if the Vikings fixed the offensive line, when/whether Teddy Bridgewater would get healthy, and what would become of Bradford once he did.* *

Few imagined the March 31 signing of Keenum, who'd been the Jared Goff placeholder in Los Angeles the season before, as significant in any way. But then Bradford got hurt in the opener before Bridgewater was ready, and by the time Bridgewater was *ready Keenum was playing too well to take out. He leads Minnesota into the playoffs as the team that has possibly the best chance ever to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.*

Keenum is 10-3 as a starter this season, and he has thrown for 3,358 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The former undrafted free agent has a quarterback rating of 98.1 this season, and has produced a rating of 100 or higher in seven games.

Keenum's strong play has helped lead the Vikings to an NFC North title, and Minnesota can clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win in Sunday's regular-season finale against Chicago.

Vikings will see strong Bears running game in finale

A key reason for the Vikings success on defense this season has been a stout performance against the run. Minnesota ranks second overall by allowing just 87.1 yards per game.

The Vikings will end the regular season with one of their stiffest tests on the ground.

Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com wrote that the Vikings will have their hands full against Bears running back Jordan Howard, who has had success against Minnesota in the past.

Howard had 153 rushing yards and a score in his first career game against the Vikings last season. He also has topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first two seasons.

Coller wrote:

Howard's numbers are slightly down from his rookie campaign, but he's still gained 1,113 yards on 267 carries (4.2 YPA) and has scored nine touchdowns. Last season he gained 1,313 yards at 5.2 per carry. Still the second-year back has posted five 100-yard games this year.

"He's been a great back," [Vikings Head Coach Mike] Zimmer said. "When you watch him, his time speed is not his play speed. He plays a lot faster than his time speed. I like his physicality. For a big guy, they don't usually bounce to the perimeter. Their offensive line does a great job. They do a great job of turning things over to the next level. I think that helps him. But when he gets a crease, he can hit it and get down field."

Howard isn't alone in the backfield. Rookie Tarik Cohen has picked up a total of 701 yards from scrimmage, about half of which have come through the air. The shifty scat back has 47 receptions for 344 yards.

The Bears rank 11th overall at 117.2 rushing yards per game, and are tied for eighth (along with the Vikings and five other teams) with 13 scores on the ground.

Coller also noted Minnesota will have to be aware of Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's ability to pick up yards with his feet.

Trubisky is also willing to run. He's added 246 yards on the ground, which Zimmer said can be a challenge when he escapes the pocket.

"He's very athletic," Zimmer said. "He does a great job when scrambling. Comes out in a lot of different places. Some quarterbacks come out the same way every time, he doesn't do that. He may spin to his left and come back out to his right. It's another thing that we have to defend, and it's a pain in the rear end."

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