Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rick Scuteri/AP/Shutterstock (13603837aj) Buffalo Bills quarterback Case Keenum (18) warms up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, in Buffalo, New York Packers Bills Football, Buffalo, United States – 30 Oct 2022
Even though free agents can’t sign with new teams before Wednesday at 3 p.m., the Texans had a flurry of activity on Tuesday when they agreed to contracts with six veterans, including quarterback Case Keenum and safety Jimmie Ward.
When NFL teams officially began negotiations Monday morning with prospective free agents from other teams, general manager Nick Caserio moved quickly. He struck early with Keenum and late with Ward.
Keenum, 35, is returning to Houston, where he set NCAA records for the Cougars and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Texans in 2012. Ward, 31, will be reunited with new coach DeMeco Ryans, his defensive coordinator at San Francisco the last two years. Also agreeing to terms was another former 49er, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway.
Keenum will sign a one-year contract that could be worth $6.25 million, including $4 million guaranteed. Ridgeway will receive $3 million guaranteed on his one-year deal.
Meanwhile, Caserio reached agreements with three other players – defensive end Chase Winovich, running back Mike Boone, and fullback/H-back Andrew Beck. Winovich, 27, was drafted by the Patriots when Caserio was the director of player personnel. He spent three seasons with New England and last season with Cleveland. Beck, 26, left the University of Texas and signed with New England as an undrafted free agent. He left the Patriots for Denver, where he played the last four seasons. Boone, 27, played three seasons for Minnesota and two for Denver. He spent most of his two seasons with the Broncos on injured reserve.
Because of his popularity with fans of the Cougars and Texans, Keenum agreeing got the most attention. When they sign him for the third time, it should mean the end of quarterback Davis Mills’ career with the Texans. Mills, the starter for most of his first two seasons, isn’t going to be the third quarterback behind a rookie who’s expected to be the second overall pick as well as Keenum.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who played for Caserio at New England and Ryans at San Francisco, agreed to a contract to be reunited with his Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who’s entering his second year as Las Vegas’ coach.
Caserio and Ryans want to select a franchise quarterback in the draft. Depending on what Carolina does with the first pick, they could have their choice of Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud or take the one the Panthers don’t draft.
Getting Keenum to return to Houston is a terrific move by the Texans. Keenum will be ideal as a backup who’ll mentor a rookie like Young or Stroud. He’ll be like having an extra coach on the field and add to the culture Ryans wants to develop in his locker room.
Keenum spent six years at the University of Houston, where he became one of the most popular athletes in the school’s storied history. After signing with the Texans as an undrafted free agent when his career with the Cougars ended, Keenum played two seasons for Gary Kubiak. He returned in 2014 and played for Bill O’Brien. Since leaving the Texans, Keenum has played for the Rams, Vikings, Broncos, Commanders, Browns, and Bills.
If everything goes according to plan, the Texans could be the last stop on Keenum’s playing career and set him up for a career as an NFL coach.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).