I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Vikings have every intention of bringing in a veteran quarterback as an insurance policy for Christian Ponder. There’s been recent speculation that the team may or may not bring in a veteran to compete with Ponder and Joe Webb in training camp and possibly be a short term solution if neither Ponder or Webb earn the job outright. Coach Leslie Frazier recently said “In our situation if we were to go that route to bring a veteran in — whatever time that would be — that veteran has to understand how important the chemistry of it is because eventually either Joe or Christian is going to be our long-term answer.”
While Frasier is saying the right things publicly, he knows that this team needs a fallback option in case Ponder proves he isn’t ready to start week one or worse, gets hurt. Making this more obvious is the fact that there is currently no other viable starting option on the roster. Frasier is doing the right thing by including Webb in the quarterback competition, but if he and the rest of the coaching staff viewed him as a long term starting option the team wouldn’t have reached for Ponder in the first round of April’s draft. Rhett Bomar, the third in the Vikings stable of young and inexperienced quarterbacks, could one day develop in to a quality backup and spot starter, but he’s not that yet and isn’t likely to get there with the Vikings. The bottom line is that rolling the dice by entering the season with three quarterbacks who have a collective two NFL starts is not something that a smart organization like the Vikings is willing to do.
Recent buzz has connected both Kyle Orton and Matt Hasselbeck to the Vikings and while each would be a great mentor to Ponder, I don’t see either suiting up for the Vikings. Orton has one year on his contract and Denver is looking to move him for what would likely be a 2012 3rd round pick. At first glance this seems like a fair price for a solid 28 year old NFL starter as long as he’s willing to accept a role as the veteran backup and sign a 2-3 year extension. The reality is that Orton isn’t signing a deal to be a backup and will reach free agency with every intention of finding a starting job. A 3rd round pick for a one year stopgap no longer looks like a good deal. If I’m the Vikings I wouldn’t give up more than a 4th round pick for one year of Orton.
Hasselbeck, on the other hand is nearing the end of a strong career and is a free agent, but I take his leading recent workouts with Seattle as a sign that he wants to return to the team. Seattle hasn’t sent clear signals that they intend to bring him back however, which could put Hasselbeck in play for the Vikings if he were willing to settle for being a short term starter at best. I think if he doesn’t wind up back in Seattle he finds a better starting opportunity elsewhere. Donovan McNabb finds himself in a similar position to Hasselbeck, a veteran signal caller set to hit the free agent market with the intention of extending his career as a starter. The only way the Vikings end signing McNabb is if the few available starting jobs dry up and he has no other options. At that point, the team has to ask itself if a reluctant veteran meets the chemistry needs that Frazier is looking for.
Marc Bulger and Kerry Collins represent the perfect veteran backups. Each has had success as a starter, but equally important in this case, they also have experience serving as backups to young starters. The key here is that they are at the stage of their careers where they will understand and accept their role as possible short term starter and veteran backup. My guess is that after originally setting their sights on Hasselbeck or Orton, the Vikings are now eyeing one of these two players as more realistic options for their veteran insurance policy.
Judson Coleman may be followed on Twitter @Jacalope37