While there were rumors that the Buffalo Bills would once again be in the market for a new backup quarterback heading into the 2023 NFL season, such became a reality just hours after the NFL’s official free agency negotiating period opened on Monday, March 13.
Josh Allen‘s backup quarterback Case Keenum was among the team’s 20 players set to become unrestricted free agents, and while Buffalo traded a 2022 seventh-round draft pick to land the veteran last year, the 35-year-old journeyman is now taking his talents to the Houston Texans.
Sports Radio 610 host John McClain tweeted on Monday, “The Texans have agreed to sign Case Keenum to a two-year contract as their backup QB behind the second overall pick in the draft. The deal can’t become official until the start of free agency on Wednesday.”
Born in Brownwood, Keenum will return to his home state to play for the first team who took a flier on him after he went undrafted out of Houston in 2012. After spending a year on the practice squad, Keenum became the team’s third-stringer behind then-starter Matt Schaub and backup T.J. Yates. However, Keenum became the starter after Schaub got injured, and went 0-8 as a starter in 2013. After a brief stint with the Rams, Keenum returned to the Texans as a backup in 2014 and fared much better when he took over the starting role after then-starter Ryan Fitzpatrick broke his leg.
Keenum was then traded back to the Rams, where he stayed for two seasons before bouncing around the league. Before getting traded to the Bills, he had stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Washington Commanders, and the Cleveland Browns. While he never got a chance to start in Buffalo, Keenum has recorded a total of 14,884 yards, 78 touchdowns, and 48 interceptions over the past ten seasons.
The Texans expected to select a quarterback with their No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so adding Keenum gives the rookie Houston lands a veteran mentor to work with, or some insurance if the prospect isn’t quite ready to go in Week 1.
After learning of Keenum’s departure, WROC-TV’s Thad Brown tweeted, “Won’t find a better personality fit for the #Bills QB room than Case Keenum. Tough loss. Plenty of viable backup QB options available.” Bills beat reporter Jon Scott floated the idea of Marcus Mariota.
“It’s clear his path is as back-up and think it would be valuable for #Bills to find someone whose skillset is close to Josh Allen in terms of mobility so offense doesn’t have major shift should Allen go down,” Scott tweeted.
Sam Darnold Emerged as a New Backup Option for Allen, But Signed With the 49ers
While fans balked at the idea of polarizing former Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz landing in Buffalo as Allen’s new backup, the reception for Sam Darnold possibly taking over the role was met with a much warmer reaction.
The Buffalo News suggested Darnold, 25, as a top option since he “passed the ‘he is friends with Josh’ test,” and good chemistry in the quarterbacks’ room is a top priority for Allen. One man tweeted, “Darnold please if the Case is out.” The 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback spent the last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers and is set to become a free agent.”
The New York Jets’ former fourth-overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft would join Matt Barkley in the quarterbacks’ room should he come to Buffalo, who signed to a futures/reserve contract with the Bills in January.
However, on Monday afternoon, Darnold was snatched up by the 49ers. Darnold is set to sign a one-year contract with San Francisco, per ESPN, which was announced shortly after Jimmy Garoppolo agreed to a three-year, $67.5 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Bills Could Possibly Bring Back Trubisky
The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia suggested last month that should Buffalo let Keenum walk, they could look toward bringing back former backup, Mitch Trubisky, whose journey as a starter with the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t quite pan out in 2022. Trubisky, the former second overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, was deemed a top salary cap cut candidate after rookie Kenny Pickett secured the starting role this past season.
The Athletic staff surmised on February 25, “In a perfect world, the Steelers would love to keep a veteran like Trubisky” to play backup for Pickett, “but when you are tight against the cap, all things are on the table, including cutting Trubiksy loose.” The 28-year-old veteran has a cap hit of $10.62 million for the 2023 NFL season. If the Steelers cut or trade him before June 1, they’ll clear up $8 million in cap space.