Sunday, March 1, 2015
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matt cassel

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.

The history of the Minnesota Vikings seems riddled with missed opportunities at the quarterback position.  The one that sticks out to me most was when they successfully cashed in on Daunte Culpepper by shipping him to Miami, but then ignoring the fact that Drew Brees could actually be acquired without losing any draft picks at all.  That one still stings, to me.

Due to an injury that season, however, Brees was anything but a “sure thing.”  The Chargers offered their starter an incentivized contract which was a clear signal that they were not convinced he could return and continue to play at a high level.  Brees ultimately signed with New Orleans, however, and he has amassed some the greatest passing totals the league has ever seen (and a Super Bowl ring).

These opportunities to sign a relatively young quarterback, who has shown some ability to win in the NFL, don’t come along very often.  Usually they come with some extreme doubt (Peyton Manning’s neck) or some sort of baggage (Mike Vick’s… ummm… issues), and the risk is often too much for a conservative front office to stomach.

In the case of Josh Freeman, and his recent release from the Tampa Bay Bucs, Rick Spielman and the Vikings need to decide if the free agent quarterback is just another wasted talent that will soon be irrelevant, or a talented signal-caller capable of leading a team to greatness.  Greg Schiano of the Bucs obviously thinks Freeman doesn’t have what it takes, but Schiano also isn’t currently in a position to be deemed sane, let alone a good judge of character.

Freeman’s standout season was 2010, when he started all 16 games and threw for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.  He showed up in a couple of big games and appeared to be well on his way to stardom, with broadcasters raving about him at any given chance.  2011 was a disappointment, however, but he improved during the 2012 season.  His improvement wasn’t enough to save his head coach’s job, though, and it is crystal clear that Schiano is ready to move on without him.

What teams like the Vikings need to determine is simple:  Is Freeman capable of playing like he did in 2010 or was that just a mirage?  Now that Freeman is able to be had at a relatively minimal investment, some team will endeavor to find out the answer to that question.

Acquiring a guy like Freeman would put the Vikings in an awkward position.  “Starter” Christian Ponder would surely feel slighted by the move and Matt Cassel would clearly see the writing on the wall, too.  Meanwhile, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is someone the Vikings have invested a lot of time into developing and they might not be too eager to send him packing.

What the front office has to realize, however, is that they are about five months away from having to invest heavily, once again, in the quarterback position.  Cassel’s contract option puts him basically on a one-year deal, while Ponder has a long ways to go before he can prove he’s dependable, let alone capable.  Today’s NFL, simply put, demands more out of the quarterback position than these two have to offer.

The presence of these three quarterbacks, and perhaps the desire to further evaluate them, might make Minnesota a good landing spot for Freeman.  It is very difficult to join an NFL team and immediately become their mid-season starter, and no team should expect that upon signing Freeman.  Instead, they should let him get acclimated, get to know him as a person and as a quarterback, and do their due diligence on him to see if he might be reliable for 2014 and beyond.  After starting the season 1-3, and facing a very tough schedule down the stretch, I would see little downside in the Vikings taking such an approach.

The worst that could happen is the Vikings add another name to their growing list of failed quarterback experiments, and after so many years of being desensitized to that I would be willing to just say:  Hey, at least this one didn’t cost us any picks.

 A fractured rib will sideline Christian Ponder on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. Matt Cassel will get his first start for the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings as he takes on his former head coach Todd Haley who is now an assistant with the Steelers.

 Cassel is still considered the “backup” to Ponder… but a good performance could land him an extended opportunity to lead the Vikings after next week’s bye week.

 Cassel has started three times against the Steelers in his career. He has thrown for 571 yards, two touchdowns, three picks, completed under 50% of his attempts and has a 60.5 passer rating during those games.

 Those stats look very Ponderish to me, so I guess I will just keep my optimism to myself and hope for the best. Let’s just say I have my fingers crossed that a Vikings’ wide reciever will finally catch a touchdown pass.

 Go Vikings!

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, friend and former teammate of Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, may have accidentally broke some inside news.

According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Brady was talking about his former backup quarterbacks, Cassel and current Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, in general when he said the following:

“I’m friends with both those guys,” Brady said. “Matt Cassel, who may be starting this weekend. Brian, I text back and forth.”

It was discovered Wednesday that Vikings starter Christian Ponder has injured ribs from  last week’s loss and was limited in practice. Cassel got more repetitions in practice while Ponder rested.

“If I can’t fulfill my duties, then Matt’s going to step in and play,” Ponder said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

Head coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t comment much on the subject, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

“We want to see how Christian does today,” Frazier said. The coach said he hasn’t necessarily started game-planning for backup Matt Cassel, but wouldn’t really have to alter the game plan if Cassel is the starter.

Meanwhile, Cassel says Ponder looked just fine.

“He looked like Christian,” Cassel said. “He looked great, and he was throwing the ball fine.”

Yeah.

There is some fishy business here. Remember last year’s Wild Card game? Ponder’s injury was revealed early in the week leading up to the game, but the team was coy about the injury and was vague leading up to the game. The team had both comments of optimism and vagueness on different occasions in their comments to the press. They did not reveal that Ponder would not play until minutes before the game. But looking back, there was no way he was going to play in that game, based on the severity of the bruise on his throwing arm.

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With plenty of blame to go around in the Vikings’ disappointing 0-3 start, fans are calling for a change at quarterback.

For those at Mall of America Field on Sunday afternoon, fans were heard chanting for backup quarterback Matt Cassel at various moments of the game—including the final play when quarterback Christian Ponder was sacked to end the game.

Ponder is reportedly on a much shorter leash than people think, but head coach Leslie Frazier said after the game that he doesn’t foresee making a switch at quarterback after he watches film from the game.

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