Vikings free-agent focus: Quarterbacks

Matt Cassel (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY)

The Vikings have been up front with their intent to sign a quarterback in free agency and the draft. We take a look at their top options and explain why, and list the remaining options.

The Vikings aren't sugarcoating their situation as much these days. They know they need to add a quarterback, maybe two, that wasn't on the team last year.

That makes the position one of the top priorities in free agency and the draft, and it might be the only position that holds that high of priority in both phases of player acquisition. Given that it's also the most important position on a team, you can see why the Vikings need to get it right now and into the future.

VIKINGS VIEW

They have only one quarterback, Christian Ponder, currently signed for 2014, and he is one of the most heavily criticized Vikings quarterbacks over the last decade. Vikings brass seems to understand it can't go into the 2014 season with Ponder as the top option, but the free-agent pickings aren't plentiful, reflecting the emphasis the league places on keeping and retaining quarterbacks that are even marginal starters.

INSIDE OPTIONS

While Rick Spielman spoke of his quarterback situation during the NFL Scouting Combine, he revisited Ponder's decent games, an indication that he may still have some hope of Ponder developing. The reality, however, is that he knows he can't bank on that happening. Both Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer were pretty clear that the ideal scenario is signing a veteran to compete for the starting spot and drafting a quarterback in the early rounds of the draft – with the option to develop him over the course of a year or two or, if he produces early, consider him for a starting spot in 2014.

TOP OUTSIDE OPTIONS

Matt Cassel: This has to be the Vikings top priority. Cassel was the most effective of the Vikings quarterbacks who had a chance to start last year. That isn't glowing praise, but it is the current state of the free-agent market at quarterback. After Cassel opted out of the final year of his contract in 2014, likely seeking more than the $500,000 guarantee he would have been given in March, the Vikings had talks with his agent last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. They have until March 8 to get something done with him or he can legally start listening to other teams' offers, although he can't sign a contract with another team until March 11.

Josh McCown: The Chicago Bears would like to re-sign McCown, but other teams are apparently letting it be known they are interested in him, according to reports. The New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reportedly interested in him, which could complicate the Bears' ability to negotiate a reasonable contract with him. He started five games, playing in three others, and completed 66.5 percent of his passes with an impressive 13-to-1 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio. Like Cassel, he would be either a stopgap starter or a veteran backup.

Michael Vick: He can still generate interest, but it seems unlikely the Vikings would have an interest in him. He still isn't a very accurate passer (completing just 54.6 percent of his passes in seven games with the Eagles last year) and had only five touchdowns and three interceptions in those outings, which included six starts. However, he was 13th on Pro Football Focus' list of accuracy for deep passing, completing 9 of 22 passes he targeted 20 yards or more downfield. In Norv Turner's offense, that is a plus. Still, Cassel was better in that area, completing 17 of 38 deep passes.

OTHER FREE AGENTS

Chad Henne
Josh Freeman
Shaun Hill
Matt Flynn
Tarvaris Jackson
Colt McCoy
Kellen Clemens
Curtis Painter
Luke McCown
Derek Anderson
David Garrard
Dan Orlovsky
Tim Tebow
Rex Grossman
Jimmy Clausen
Charlie Whitehurst
Brady Quinn


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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