Sunday, March 1, 2015
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christian ponder

As the Vikings get deeper and deeper into the 2013 season their losses are becoming more and more embarrassing.  A playoff team one season ago, the Vikings of today are putting some of the most putrid displays of football on the field that I have ever seen, and I’m counting the high school competitions I’ve watched… including junior varsity… in Alaska.

This team has been so awful in so many ways that it is difficult to diagnose any individual problems.  There are some obvious players to pick on, guys that lack certain skill sets, but all 32 teams in the league have guys like that.  There is something different about this Vikings team.  Something that just isn’t right.  Something that can’t be explained away by citing an overall lack of talent.  This team isn’t old, but it isn’t so young that it should be this bad.  In the past I’ve talked about Christian Ponder just not seeming to have that elusive “it” trait, which is a hard thing to explain about an individual player, but now I venture to say that this entire team just doesn’t have “it” this year.  How that happens to a collective group is even harder to explain.

Still, I have to do something other than pretend my website doesn’t exist.  I can’t just let you guys down and stop writing, no matter how much of a chore it feels like these days.  I can clean my gutters before I write, however, which is exactly what I did.  Despite the dirty task, Tuesday night has already been more of a success (and more enjoyable) than Monday night was.

There were no hidden treasures in my gutters tonight and, homers be warned, there are no hidden treasures in my analysis of last night’s debacle.  Here are 10 things that the Vikings need to fix prior to 2014 and I attempted to prioritize them:

10.  We Need A New Guard

Whether their regression is permanent or an anomaly, the Vikings will go into the future with their current starting tackles and center on the offensive line.  The guard positions are a different story, however, and if this team is going to make a move along the O-Line it will come at these spots.  Brandon Fusco hasn’t been too terrible this season, but Charlie Johnson should not be starting in the NFL, and these guys collectively need to be held accountable for their share of the Vikings struggles both running and passing.  It is once again time for the organization to bring some serious competition to the line and make a statement:  Continuity within the unit needs to be earned, not gifted.

With Harrison Smith being placed on Injured Reserve (designated to return), the Vikings have signed cornerback Jacob Lacey.  Andrew Sendejo will start at safety in Smith’s place.  Desmond Bishop also was placed on injured reserve this week and Rodney Smith was promoted from the practice squad to take his place.  Meanwhile, quarterback Josh Freeman will be rushed into action Monday night as the starter, with neither Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel showing the organization they have what it takes to command a championship-quality offense.

The mess is widespread.  There are clearly more problems than there are viable solutions.  With four losses to their one win, and the toughest part of the schedule yet to come, things are worse than bleak for the Vikings in 2013.  We are no longer witnessing a slow start, but instead are witnessing a quick death, and their final breath could end up coming on Monday Night Football against the winless Giants.

With nothing less to lose, however, the Vikings can really only win from this point forward.

Perhaps Josh Freeman jumpstarts this team.  Maybe they make a very interesting run at a wild card spot.  Maybe his height and strong arm will finally open up the running game in a way Adrian Peterson’s biggest fans have only dreamed of.  Maybe he knows what it takes to win, to lead a group of winners, and maybe the Vikings have one of the biggest free agency steals of all time on their hands.  Maybe they finally have a franchise quarterback.

Of course, maybe not.

Maybe Freeman doesn’t show us anything special and serves up more of the same.  Maybe the defense struggles even more than they already are with their stud safety sidelined with an injury.  Maybe the coaching and scheme are just not going to get it done.  Maybe this team continues to spiral further into the abyss.  Maybe the are destined to be one of the NFL’s worst this year.

Either way, it is hard to see the downside for this team as the season progresses, outside of (knock on wood) devastating injuries.  Either they get their collective act together and see some promise out of their new, young quarterback or they get closer and closer to securing one of the top picks in a very quarterback-heavy Draft.

We would all prefer they win games.  But, they haven’t been able to do that, and I don’t think it is too early to start eyeballing those consolation prizes.

This afternoon, the Vikings officially made Josh Freeman the newest QB to come to Minnesota. In doing so, the team had to decide who would be released from the team to make room for the ex-Buccaneers signal caller. Ultimately, the team decided to waive third-string QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Though he never saw regular season playing time with the Vikings, many fans were intrigued by the prospect of Bethel-Thompson continuing to develop and potentially turning into something worthwhile eventually.

Of course, the decision to release Bethel-Thompson instead of a certain Christian Ponder, who is currently dealing with a rib injury, sparked some backlash amongst fans. While there were other routes the Vikings could have taken to make room for Freeman, to me, waiving Bethel-Thompson seemed the most obvious and correct move to make. While it was fun to think that maybe, possibly, someday MBT could develop into a franchise quarterback and great story, it was highly unlikely. Instead, the Vikings chose to retain three more experienced quarterbacks and have a full-fledged quarterback battle.

With it being a bye week for the Vikings the signing of Josh Freeman is about all there is to talk about.  To be honest, though, even if it wasn’t a bye week this is about all we would want to talk about anyways.  Here are ten random things (facts, thoughts, opinions, etc.) about the signing:

1.  Franchise Tag A Possibility

The Vikings surely hope Freeman comes in and throws for a gazillion yards and six dozen touchdowns and saves their season en route to the Super Bowl… or something like that.  If Freeman does light it up once he hits the field, they will not have to immediately worry about losing Freeman to free agency, despite his one year contract.  According to PFT, Freeman’s contract contains no clause preventing the Vikings from using the “franchise” tag following this season.  If the organization decides Freeman is their guy then he will be hear to stay, but that tag will not be cheap if it comes to that.

2. Yes, I Like The Move

For those asking, I absolutely love this move.  I see no downside.  If Freeman busts, all that is lost is $2 million of Zygi Wilf’s money, at this point.  Freeman has a stronger arm than Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel.  He has more success on his resume than Ponder does, and comes to town with more experience at the same age (25).  Freeman’s ability to throw the deep ball has to be respected which can only help Adrian Peterson.  I just don’t see why some fans remain opposed to this move, which could possibly define a new era of Vikings football for the better.

3.  Eye On The Cap

The Vikings will reportedly have less than $1 million in cap space remaining after signing Freeman.  He signed a one year deal worth $2.83 million, but the prorated amount for 12 games remaining sees him making $2 million from the Vikings.  Unless the Vikings are quick to somehow shed some cap space soon then they are unlikely to sign any other big names this year, or make any lucrative extension offers to their own player.

Josh Freeman will not be the latest “missed opportunity” when it comes to the Minnesota Vikings and their troubled history at the quarterback position.  He may not be the savior either, as he carries some baggage with him, but we will not have to wonder “what if” when it comes to this 25 year old unexpectedly becoming a mid-season free agent.

Reports, confirmed on Twitter by Freeman’s agent, announced late Sunday night that Freeman picked the Vikings as his next team and has joined the team on a one year deal.

The move will be dissected and scrutinized all week long (and beyond), but there is very little at risk here other than some cap space, and Rick Spielman should get some credit for taking such a proactive approach at such an important position.

Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and McLeod Bethel-Thompson each face some uncertainty this week as it seems unlikely that the team goes forward with four quarterbacks and Joe Webb on the roster.  The most likely scenario perhaps involves sending Ponder (ribs) the the injured reserve.

We’ll be monitoring the situation as it progresses, so be sure to check back in for the latest.

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