Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Minnesota Vikings 2011 -- Handicapping the Vikings quarterback quandary

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on January 21, 2011 

When the Minnesota Vikings look for their next quarterback they need to remember that their offense still includes a handful of talented players. With Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice (presumably) and Visanthe Shiancoe all returning next year – finding a quarterback of the future should not be the Vikings top priority. While it’s nice to have a franchise quarterback on the roster, those types of players aren't easy to find, and they don’t come cheap.
The Vikings have plenty of needs to address this offseason, most notably upgrading their O-line. If your offensive line can't block, it doesn't matter who's under center. With that said, the Vikings still may end up with their franchise quarterback, but I wouldn't recommend forcing the issue. In recent years, the Vikings have had a tendency to press the personnel panic button, for example:
Desperation can make you do crazy things, but now it’s time for some sanity in Viking Land. Leslie Frazier will help bring calm – and hopefully some new ideas – to the off-season agenda. So, who will be the Vikings quarterback next season?

Brett Favre (2 million:1 -- up from 1 million:1) – UPDATE: A combination of filed retirement papers and more sexting allegations will keep Favre from returning to the Vikings. Plus, he picked the Packers to 'win it all'. Let the Packer fence mending begin. Not a chance.
Tarvaris Jackson (8000:1) – UPDATE: Still a long shot. Jackson’s biggest supporter, Brad Childress, left town several weeks ago and soon Jackson will likely be gone too. There is virtually no chance Jackson returns to the Vikings next season. However, if the Vikings miss out on signing all of the other QBs on this list and a lockout runs up to the start of the season, the Vikings might be forced to bring Jackson back. Again, I highly doubt it, but having a player who is familiar with the offense – in an offseason where OTAs and training camps could be limited – makes more sense than trying to cram an offseason’s worth of information into a couple of weeks.
Michael Vick (5000:1 -- up from 2000:1) – UPDATE: Vick made it clear that Philadelphia is the best place for him to succeed. He also said he isn't opposed to signing a one-year Franchise Tag contract. Vick and the Eagles look like they're sticking together. Vick made himself a lot of money this season and I don’t see the Eagles letting him get away. The only way Vick lands in Minnesota is if the new collective bargaining agreement no longer includes the ‘Franchise Player’ designation and the Wilf’s offer him an obscene amount of money. Vick owes a lot of money and might be looking for the biggest payday possible. But signing Vick comes with a lot of risk. He’s injury prone and he’s one misstep away from being banned from the league for life. The upside to signing Vick would be it brings another dynamic player to the offense and Vick would put butts in the seats. Games would sell out fast and his jersey would be snatched up faster than they could print them. Vick coming to Minnesota would be a huge deal, not Brett Favre big, but close.
Andrew Luck (OFF) – UPDATE: Andrew Luck says he's staying at Stanford. If Luck decides to bolt for the NFL, the indication is the sophomore from Stanford will be the number one pick in the draft. Luck is the prototypical pocket passer, with a good head on his shoulders. Luck was valedictorian of his graduating class in high school and finished runner up in this year’s Heisman Trophy race. He’s the type of guy you want as the face of your franchise. If the Vikings want to get Luck, it’s going to cost them. The Vikings currently have the #12 pick in the first round and moving up to #1 will be challenging, especially without a third round pick (Moss trade). To give you an idea of how valuable the number one pick is, in 2004 the New York Giants traded a first round pick (#4 overall), a third round pick (#65) and two picks in 2005, including a first rounder for the #1 pick – who turned out to be Eli Manning. The San Diego Chargers turned those picked into Philip Rivers, Nate Kaeding and Shawne Merriman. Again, it takes a lot to pry away that top pick. The Panthers appear ready to take Luck with the first overall pick, but if I’m the Vikings, I’m making a call to Carolina to see what it might take to get that #1 pick.  
Kyle Orton (250:1)UPDATE: The Denver Broncos new head coach John Fox really likes Tim Tebow. During Fox's introduction news conference he spoke very highly of Tebow and less so about Orton. My gut tells me Orton will made available at some point this offseason. The question is, will the Vikings give up a draft pick to get him? The Broncos want a second round pick for Orton, which the Vikings likely won’t give up. Without a third round pick this year, the Vikings will likely hold onto all of its picks and use them to fill other positions of need (OL, DB, DL). Orton has developed into a very capable quarterback and has really become the Rodney Dangerfield of NFL quarterbacks. He was shipped out of Chicago, traded for Jay Cutler, than benched in Denver for Tim Tebow. Orton has thrown 59 touchdowns to just 33 interceptions the past three seasons. If the Broncos drop their asking price on Orton (which they’ll have to considering Orton makes $8.4 million in 2011), the odds of him landing in Minnesota will change.

Tim Tebow (1 million:1) UPDATE: Tebow isn't going anywhere. When Josh McDaniels interviewed for the Vikings offensive coordinator position, there was speculation he might bring Tebow with him. Well, McDaniels is headed to St. Louis and John Fox likes Tebow. So again, Tebow isn't going anywhere.  
Vince Young (50:1 -- down from 300:1) – UPDATE: Young will eventually be cut by Tennessee and the odds of him landing in Minnesota have increased tremendously. Why you ask? The Vikings just hired Craig Johnson as their quarterbacks coach. Johnson has spent the last eight seasons with the Titans, four of those years spent as Young's quarterbacks coach. Johnson recently said Young's "best days are ahead of him." Expect the Young to Minnesota rumors to heat up as the offseason goes on, especially once Young is officially released from Tennessee. While Young is an textremely talented athlete, he’s not a franchise quarterback. Young has been given every opportunity to succeed in Tennessee (including an obscene amount of support from Titans owner Bud Adams), but he appears to have squandered his chance. Young is immature, unprepared and to put it bluntly – not a very good quarterback. If Tennessee lets Young go, some team will give him another shot. Fans in Minnesota should hope it’s not the Vikings.   
Troy Smith (10000:1 -- up from 400:1) – UPDATE: Now that Mike Singletary has joined the Vikings staff, it is now virtually out of the question that Smith signs with Minnesota. Singletary and Smith were involved in a heated exchange on the sidelines during a game this year. I don't see Singletary writing a good recommendation for Smith. A blow-up with head coach Mike Singletary in week 16 makes Smith to Minnesota a long shot. In fact, Smith’s blow-up on the sideline probably hurts his value even more than his sporadic play this season. Smith showed some potential this year, before faltering down the stretch. I don’t see Smith heating up the free agent market, especially after how he ended the 2010 season. Vikings should stay away.      
Kevin Kolb (150:1 -- down from 250:1)UPDATE: Philadelphia wants to keep Kolb, but he wants out. Vick will most certainly be the Eagles quarterback next year, but they will need a capable back-up considering how often Vick is injured. If the Vikings miss out on the top 3 quarterbacks in the draft -- which very well could happen -- the Vikings may make a move for Kolb. Philadelphia hoped it had a Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers situation when the Eagles let Donovan McNabb go and handed the starting QB job to Kolb. What they quickly discovered was Kolb is no Rodgers. Fortunately for the Eagles, Andy Reid’s Michael Vick risk was rewarded. Vick’s resurgence has landed the Eagles in the playoffs and Kolb on the bench. Kolb is still young (26), but his confidence certainly took a hit this year. Kolb will be available, for the right price. However, the Eagles will ask too much for Kolb, similar to Denver’s demands for Orton. The Vikings are not likely to give up a second round pick for Kolb, especially without that third rounder. With Vick’s history of getting injured and one strike away from a lifelong NFL ban, Kolb may be best served staying in Philadelphia and being Vick’s back-up.
Alex Smith (10000:1 -- up from 200:1) – UPDATE: See Troy Smith. The Singletary hire hurts his chances too. Ever since Smith was drafted #1 overall by San Francisco six years ago, he never solidified his spot atop the 49ers QB depth chart. Smith had some impressive games with the Niners, but lacked the consistency it takes to be a reliable NFL quarterback. He’s most certainly on his way out of San Francisco and likely headed for a team willing to give the 26-year-old a shot at starting. The fact that Smith played for Frazier’s ex-Bears teammate Mike Singletary could keep Smith away from the Vikings. Smith and Singletary didn’t exactly see eye to eye this season, so don’t expect a ringing endorsement from Singletary – if Frazier inquires about Smith.
Carson Palmer (80:1) – A couple of weeks ago I would put the odds of Palmer to Minnesota at around 20:1. But changes are coming in Cincinnati and I’m convinced now that Palmer will stay put. Palmer finished 2010 with 26 TDs and nearly 4,000 yards. With the likely exodus of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, Palmer could experience a rebirth of sorts and stay in Cincinnati. However, if the Bengals decide to let him go, Minnesota, Arizona or San Francisco are all potential landing spots for the 31-year-old Palmer.           
Matt Hasselbeck (300:1 -- up from 50:1) – UPDATE: After an inspired performance against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs, Hasselbeck will likely stay in Seattle. I can see him putting off retirement for one more year and re-signing with the Seahawks. I was convinced before this year that Hasselbeck would be wearing purple next season. Here’s why I think Hasselbeck is still has a good shot at landing in Minnesota: his contract is up in Seattle after this year, he’s a West Coast offense aficionado and Pete Carroll wants someone else under center (see Charlie Whitehurst). Hasselbeck has had a solid NFL career, including a trip to the Super Bowl, but he’s old. He’ll be 36 next season and he’s battled a back/hip injury for the past several years. I think the likely next stop for Hasselbeck is retirement, and a spot next to his brother at ESPN (prediction: Matt and Tim will have a segment together on ESPN called “The Hassel Factor” where they breakdown NFL games). However, if Hasselbeck feels he is healthy enough to play again next year and would consider moving to Minnesota, he may get a call from Frazier.
Blaine Gabbert (85:1)UPDATE: With Luck staying in school, Gabbert could be the first QB selected in the April draft and out of the Vikings reach. You’re going to hear a lot about Gabbert leading up to draft day. Some are calling him the second best quarterback in the draft behind Luck. Gabbert is a big, strong-armed pocket passer, but he’s raw. He struggled at times with his accuracy this year, throwing eight fewer touchdowns in 2010 compared to 2009. The team that drafts Gabbert will need to be patient. A good showing at the combine could propel Gabbert into the top 10 and out of the Vikings reach.
Cam Newton (75:1 -- up from 25:1)UPDATE: The more I read about Newton the more I'm convinced he's going to be a top 10 pick. His size, speed and strength are off the charts and his game can be brought along with good coaching. I don't see Newton making it to #12. So if the Vikings really like him, trading up will be the only way they land the Heisman winner. Newton is athletic freak, who might turn out to be a great pro quarterback, but I just don’t see it. Newton, a junior at Auburn, is expected to declare for the NFL draft after the National Championship Game and is considered a mid-first round pick. I’m skeptical about Newton because of the offense he runs at Auburn and his past troubles with the NCAA. Auburn’s spread offense is fun to watch, but rarely does that type of offense produce elite NFL quarterbacks (Vince Young, Pat White, Tim Tebow ran spread offenses in college). Also, Newton was the focus of an intense NCAA investigation. The NCAA found nothing on Cam Newton, but determined Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, requested money from agents in exchange for his son’s commitment to a college. I realize football players don’t need to angels, but like it or not, quarterbacks are held to a higher standard and the less controversial they are the better. Drafting Newton would be another panic move by the Vikings.

Ryan Mallett (75:1 -- up from 50:1)UPDATE: Again, there are too many other teams drafting ahead of the Vikings that need a quarterback. Mallett should be a top 10 pick, thus out of the Vikings reach. He’s big, strong and can make every throw required by an NFL quarterback, but like Gabbert, he’s not the most accurate passer. At 6’7”, The Arkansas junior is the tallest QB prospect and might be the most physically ready to endure the NFL’s weekly grind. Draft experts believe Mallett would be a reach at #12 for the Vikings, but a strong performance at the combine could change their minds.

Jake Locker (10:1 -- down from 20:1) – UPDATE: After breaking down the list of teams that need quarterbacks, there's a very good chance the top three QBs -- Mallett, Gabbert and Newton -- will be off the board before the Vikings pick at #12. Locker is the next best quarterback, and the Vikings might consider trading down, getting additional draft picks and then drafting Locker later in the first round. Locker was considered a top ten pick last year, but he passed on the draft instead opting to return to the University of Washington. It turns out that was a colossal mistake. After an average year as the Huskies QB, The senior Locker is no longer a top ten talent. In fact, he might not even be a first round pick. Locker’s viewed as a project for whoever drafts him. If the Vikings don’t use their #12 pick to draft a quarterback, Locker might be their guy in the second round, or late first round if they trade down.
Joe Webb (10:1 -- up from 5:1)UPDATE: It doesn't sound like Leslie Frazier has the most confidence in Webb as a starting quarterback next year. Frazier has made it very clear the Vikings would like to target a quarterback in the upcoming draft. Webb will most certainly be on the roster next year, but it sounds like he'll be holding the clipboard once again. With a lockout looming, a lot of teams will be forced to wait on signing free agents, which benefits Webb. Webb will most likely be the only quarterback on the roster with any game experience (Favre retired, Jackson not resigned). Webb showed some promise in his limited action this year, but clearly he is still a long ways off from being this franchise’s quarterback of the future. Webb does have poise in the pocket that you normally don’t see from a rookie, especially one drafted in the sixth round. He’s also gifted in the running game, which could be seen as a positive and negative. Webb’s upright running style opens him up to big hits and the potential for injury. Webb still has a lot to learn, but early indications are he’s ready to lead. My only concern with Webb is; I see a lot of Vince Young, Jason Campbell and Vince Evans in him. To me Webb has the potential to be good, but not great.
Donovan McNabb (8:1 -- up from 2:1)UPDATE: I'm starting to think the Vikings are telling the truth when they say they don't want another "bridge" quarterback. You know, the old guy who has one or two years left. McNabb is one of those guys and appears to be the Vikings plans less and less. Despite signing a huge 5-year contract extension in November, McNabb is most certainly finished in Washington. McNabb spent the final three games of the Redskins season on the bench, replaced by Rex Grossman. While McNabb has stayed professional about his benching, his agent blasted head coach Mike Shanahan and his offensive coordinator son Kyle for their handling of the QB situation. The McNabb/Shanahan(x2) marriage can’t go on like this and it won't. One reason I think McNabb lands in Minnesota is his familiarity with Leslie Frazier. From 1999-2002, Frazier served as Philadelphia’s defensive back’s coach. 1999 was also McNabb’s first year in the NFL. Frazier watched McNabb enjoy success during that time. McNabb, who turns 35 in November, also has extensive knowledge of the West Coast offense. People may roll their eyes at this, but if there’s an NFL lockout this Spring, getting free agents up to speed on the playbook won’t be as easy as in years past. The only real drama with McNabb joining the Vikings will be what number will he wear? Chris Kluwe sports the #5 jersey right now, and he’s not going anywhere. This year I expect to see McNabb in purple and several tweets from Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) naming some humorous demands for his #5 jersey.

We’ll know a lot more about contracts and free agency after the Super Bowl. An important date to know is March 3. That is when the current CBA agreement between the owners and players expires. If a new agreement isn’t in place by then, players will be locked out and the offseason agenda would put on hold until an agreement is reached. Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment