Wednesday, July 29, 2015

matt cassel

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The Vikings are set to host Carolina this afternoon and I want to remind everyone interested to join us for a Live Chat during the action.

The inactives for today include recently acquired quarterback Josh Freeman, as Matt Cassel will remain the starter, with Christian Ponder playing the role of backup.

The other inactives today are:  Safety Mistral Raymond, Linebacker Gerald Hodges, Linebacker Audie Cole, Defensive Tackle Chase Baker, Defensive End Justin Trattou, and Guard Jeff Baca.

The Vikings are much healthier coming out of the bye and Chris Cook will be welcomed back into this struggling secondary as they prepare to face Cam Newton.

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.

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.

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