NGSC Sports

QB Shopping With the Vikes by G.W. Gras

Since being appointed with the position of “NFC NORTH Blogger” for the National Gridiron Network website, it seems for some reason I’ve had some kind of fascination with the Minnesota Vikings.  Why?  I don’t know really.  As a Chicago Bears fan, the Vikings are acknowledged as a division rival – but not a hated division rival.  Bears fans have more of an issue with “lil’ bro” Detroit and the “Cheese Heads from Wisconsin,” but the Vikings are just. . . there.  When people talk football, the Vikings never come up in a discussion and if they do it’s just to praise Adrian Peterson (as we all should).  The Vikings though shouldn’t be seen as a team that’s just “there,” – they’re in fact a team whose record last season never really showed how competitive a team they truly were.  I make sure to say competitive and not “good” – let’s not go crazy here.

The Vikings enter the off-season with one need that is more obvious than the rest : Quarterback.  It seems like yesterday that the Vikings took Christian Ponder with the 12th pick of the 2011 draft and many of us gave that “eh. . . nice watch” face.   Vikings fans want Ponder out the door quicker than you can google-image-search  Samantha Steele Ponder.  But the truth is he is still under contract and no team in the league is willing to trade for him.  Matt Cassel was the team’s best quarterback last season, for what that’s worth, and has voided his contract.  This doesn’t shut down a possible return for Cassel but this does raise a lot of questions.  Is Ponder the team’s only option now that Cassel is gone?  Is Matt Cassel really the direction the Vikings want to go?

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The Vikings have seen what both of Cassel and Ponder can bring on their best days, so with that, the Vikings should look elsewhere for a starting QB.

The Vikes have attractive weapons to work with.  A veteran wide out in Greg Jennings, a star-in-the-making in Cordarrelle Patterson, one of the best running backs of all time in Adrian Peterson and when healthy, a great red zone and over the middle target in Kyle Rudolf.  When talk came about that the Rams were not going to extend Sam Bradford’s contract, I thought that meant a change gon’ come out in St. Louis, who might’ve been thinking to take a QB in this year’s draft.  A strong armed Bradford comes with health concerns, but optimistically thinking – he’d be a smart guy, with a strong arm – finally surrounded with real tools at his disposal.  It sounded nice until this morning on the Mike and Mike show, coach Jeff Fisher pretty much said Bradford is their guy and he’s their leader.  So there goes that.

I still think that an experienced quarterback is what’s needed for the Vikings.  They’re the only team in the NFC North without a franchise quarterback.  If the Vikings intend on competing for the division crown, they need someone under center who can compete twice a year with Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford – all of whom are part of explosive offenses.  That makes me think about the back up quarterbacks in the league who are just “waiting around.”  First name that came to me was Kirk Cousins, but after seeing him take over for the Redskins this season there was not much to be desired when he squared off against three teams with suspect to bad defenses.  Immediately New England came to my mind and I thought of Ryan Mallet.  Mallet was someone I liked out of college a lot.  Big strong kid, who can make all the throws and came out of a complex Bobby Petrino designed offense which leads me to belive he can follow any play book.  Unfortunately for Mallet, he plays behind a pretty durable legend.  I think Minnesota’s new offensive coordinator Norv Turner would make good use of a talent like Mallet who can throw the ball long and (from what we saw years ago in college) can maintain up-tempo or even paced offensive attacks.  The only problem with Mallet is that he hasn’t really played in forever.  I still think it’s worth a shot – and I’d still put my money on him before Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder.

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Another option for Minnesota is the draft.  The problem here is that the Vikings draft 8th in the first round which puts them behind at least 4 teams who are in need of a quarterback themselves.  There are three QB’s projected to go early : Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel, leaving guys like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo being taken with the 8th overall pick.  In my opinion this is a reach similar to the one they made in 2011 for Ponder.  The Browns may hold the key for the Vikings.  If they decide to take a QB in this years draft, would that move the Vikings to  make an offer for Brian Hoyer?  The option I like for them in the draft is to hold off and see if they can get a Zach Mettenberger of LSU (who right now is injured) or Brett Smith from Wyoming (who right now is under the radar but in a few weeks won’t be).

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There is no doubt that they Vikings will also be looking for help in the trenches this off-season, but in this league you need a quarterback to give you a chance on the field and to satisfy a disappointed fan base.  I tell folks Ponder looked serviceable when there was a healthy Percy Harvin worked into an offense that also had AP in the backfield.  Patterson can fill that void left by Harvin if used properly, so who knows if Ponder could prove to be “serviceable” again.  Vikings fans don’t want to hear that though.  They’re tired of the words like “serviceable” and words like “Ponder.”

G. W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

photo by: Tiger Girl

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