It’s unclear whether there’s much validity to the story or if the NFL is trying to fill some time with idle speculation on its 24/7 network, but the Vikings are being thrown out as a potential landing spot for soon-to-be free agent quarterback Matt Cassel.
Cassel is still under contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, and therefore the Vikings can’t comment on him (as if they would publicly anyway), but after Andy Reid made Alex Smith his choice to be his quarterback with the Chiefs by orchestrating a trade with San Francisco this week, Cassel’s time in Kansas City is winding down.
On Thursday’s “NFL Total Access” program, the debate came up as to what will be the landing spot for Cassel. It is expected that the Chiefs are going to try to shop Cassel around, but with base salaries of $7.5 million this year and $9 million in 2014, the odds of any team taking on that salary are extremely unlikely. In the end, once the Smith deal is made official March 12, Cassel expected to be released, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The two teams that were mentioned as potential landing spots were the Cardinals and Vikings. Arizona would appear to be the favorite, but new head coach Bruce Arians is said to be impressed with incumbent Kevin Kolb and has gone on record as saying, for the time being anyway, Kolb is his starting QB. If Arizona was to make a run at Cassel, it would be as competition for Kolb, not as a starter with a leg up on the starting job.
The Vikings have been widely discussed as a landing spot for a veteran quarterback after backup Joe Webb laid a playoff egg against the Packers and made it clear that the Vikings need to have a veteran presence behind Christian Ponder. But there are parameters to the scenario.
“It’s got to be a guy that comes in and understands that Christian is our starting quarterback. But, yeah, he’s got to be ready to play at any given time. That’s just the nature of being the backup quarterback,” head coach Leslie Frazier said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“He’d have to understand his role. That would be the key. If the guy comes in and has the mindset that I’m going to create a problem in the locker room because he feels he should be the starter, that would not be a good fit. It needs to be a guy that understands his role and could fit our team and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
Cassel is veteran that would fit the requirement that the Vikings are thought to be looking for and, if he would be willing to accept the role as the No. 2 QB, would be a player that could push Christian Ponder to improve his game while not being viewed as direct competition.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has gone out of his way to eliminate competition for Ponder. When Ponder replaced Donovan McNabb as the starter midway through his rookie season, instead of having a potential quarterback controversy on his hands, Spielman opted simply to release McNabb after his benching, clearing the path for Ponder and eliminating the option of the rookie looking over his shoulder wondering if he would lose his job with a poor game or two.
Last year, the Vikings entered training camp with a veteran backup in Sage Rosenfels, but, at a time when the Vikings were undergoing a full-blown youth movement, Spielman was more enamored with young QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson – releasing Rosenfels rather than risk losing MBT after the final cuts were made.
With Kansas City out of the mix for a quarterback following the Smith trade and Seattle dangling expensive free agent mistake Matt Flynn as another trade possibility, it would seem clear that the number of teams in the market for a veteran QB are dropping fast.
It’s unknown at this point what extent, if any, the Vikings have an interest in Cassel. We likely won’t find out for at least a couple of weeks because, until the Chiefs jettison him from the roster, Cassel is still under contract with Kansas City and can’t discuss potential contract terms with other teams. However, given the massive contract Cassel currently has, there is no way any team – the Vikings, Cardinals or anyone else – is going to be willing to take over that megabuck contract. But, once he’s a free agent and won’t cost anyone a draft pick and can be had for pennies on the dollar, the Vikings may end up being a legitimate landing spot.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.