Saturday, April 18, 2015
Blog Page 148

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Less than one month after giving Sidney Rice a Super Bowl ring, the Seattle Seahawks are expected to release their receiver (per NFL Insider Adam Schefter).

What are the chances that Minnesota looks at re-signing their former receiver for the 2014-15 season? Probably not very high.

Bringing Rice back would be an extremely risky move.  The Vikings are not in a position to make risky moves.

Rice signed a five-year contract worth $41 million with Seattle in July 2011. However, the 27-year-old has been hindered by injuries since joining the Hawks.

While the Vikings likely wanted to re-sign the receiver following the 2010 season, injuries were a concern even then.  Rice played only six games during his last year in Minnesota, and he underwent a microfracture hip surgery.  The recovery went well, though, and Seattle took a chance on the free agent.  After all, Rice was (is?) a guy with the skill set to succeed in the NFL.

 Patrick Reusse of 1500ESPN.com had this same idea in August 2013 when he compared Christian Ponder to other quarterbacks. Well, now it’s my turn to add two cents and lay some tracks down this Ponder path.

Rich  Gannon had a long 17 year career in the NFL as a quarterback largely due to his mobility and toughness. Ponder reminds me a little bit of Gannon in the fact that he can make plays on the run and doesn’t have the world’s greatest arm.

 Gannon didn’t play much during his first three seasons in Minnesota, but he became the Vikings’ starter in his following three seasons. Gannon was a serviceable quarterback for the Vikings, however his stats in his first 42 starts for the Vikings, Redskins and Chiefs combined were nothing more than average at best. In his first nine years in the NFL, Gannon was 21-21 as a starter completing just 56.6% of his pass attempts while throwing for 49 touchdowns and 44 interceptions with a quarterback rate of 73.8.

Like a fine wine that improves with age, Gannon transformed into a very good quarterback at the age of 32. In his last two seasons at Kansas City and his final six years in Oakland he performed at his best. During that time frame, Gannon had a 55-35 record completing 61% of his attempts and throwing 131 touchdowns with 60 interceptions. Gannon won the NFL’s MVP award in 2002 as he guided the Raiders to the Super Bowl and the top rated offense.

Can Christian Ponder develop into a great NFL quarterback too? If he can hang around the league long enough, I think he has enough skill set to be able to pull off a “Gannon like” MVP season at some point in his career. And as for now, it appears the Vikings want to hold onto Ponder for a little while longer. GM Rick Spielman said Friday that he is anxious to see how Ponder looks under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner this off-season. “Christian will be here; I don’t anticipate anything — him not being here,” Spielman said, via Master Tesfatsion of the Startribune. “Right now we’re looking at quarterbacks, so we would say we don’t have the position solidified. I know Christian does have the physical abilities to do it, but for whatever reason things haven’t come together for him.”

 Norv Turner enjoys watching young players develop. He told a group of reporters at last week’s press conference that it’s one of the reasons why he coaches. When ask about his thoughts on working with Cordarrelle, Norv talked about his experience developing a young Josh Gordon and went on to say, “We got a really good group of young players here, not only Cordarrelle but a number of guys and a pretty good running back. I look at the potential this group has, and you’re anxious to get started and see how far they can go. Cordarrelle has all the physical skills you would like in a player. When I watch tape, one of the things I look for are the things that they already do well, and how they match up with the things we want to do. I think he (Cordarrelle) will fit our offense extremely well.”

 Later in the press conference Norv said, “I look at the roster, and certainly I look at the offensive side of the ball, and I think this is a group that can be very good. I think we can be good real fast.”

Whether we’re talking about route-running, explosiveness or overall play-making ability, this team has enough firepower for Norv to take some positive steps forward in the passing game as well as the running game.

Norv certainly likes a balanced offense with a physical running attack. One goal he said is,  “We would like to get him (Adrian) in space a little bit more and get the field spread a little better for him.”

The key to spreading the field and getting Adrian Peterson and also Cordarrelle Patterson good touches in open space will depend on how effective the Vikings can be when taking shots down the field.

Norv gets excited when he talks about explosive plays, vertical passing and yards per catch. His record speaks for itself as he has coached a number of wide receivers who have finished near the top in yards per catch. That could be good news for Jarius Wright. Jarius emerged last season with the Vikings as a legitimate big play threat by leading the team with a 16.7 yards per catch average. At Arkansas he had three consecutive seasons where he had 40 or more receptions and averaged over 17 yards per catch.

It is pretty hard to argue that Matt Cassel was anything other than the Vikings best quarterback in 2013.  It is also hard to argue that they don’t need to improve at the position and can’t afford to take steps backwards.

1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, however, reports that source told him Wednesday that Matt Cassel intends to void the second and final year of his Minnesota Contract.  If he indeed goes through with it, then he is essentially wagering that he can do better than the $3.7 million one-year deal he would have been playing for in 2014.

Many have expressed surprise that Cassel would bail on a nice payday like what he was owed, but I am not at all surprised.  I listed Cassel as the Vikings top internal free agent candidate and actually assumed he would void the deal.  With such slim pickings at the quarterback position this offseason when it comes to free agents, he could easily be trading a nice one year deal for a nice longer-term deal.

Both Josh McCown and Michael Vick are a few years older than Cassel, so is arguably the most attractive free agent option at the position this offseason.  He won’t be breaking anyone’s bank, that is for sure, but I’m sure he’ll come out of this with more long-term stability than if he had played under the one year deal.

The only real question for the Vikings at this point is whether or not they want to attempt to re-sign Cassel for more money and commitment, or begin the offseason by taking a small step backwards at the quarterback position while also clearing some cap space.  It would not be a total shocker to see Cassel still end up back in Minnesota to play under Norv Turner.

With quarterback Josh Freeman also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, it is entirely possible that Christian Ponder is this team’s only quarterback option at this moment in time.

Marco Polo was an Italian merchant traveler who found fame for his exploration and adventure. Polo’s critics claimed that he was somewhat of a wanderer—not always knowing exactly where he was headed.

 Finding that “Franchise” quarterback in the NFL Draft can be a hit-or-miss venture reminiscent of a Marco Polo expedition. And, it can also be blind chance, much like that silly childhood hide-and-seek pool game we all know and love.

Anyway, one Italian name attempting to navigate up NFL Draft boards is Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. At the moment, he is not projected as a first round pick, but teams in the top ten like Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota who might be shopping for a quarterback, could hold off on spending their first pick on a signal-caller in hopes of landing Garoppolo at the top of round two or three.

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