Josh Freeman may not be the future for the Vikings if you’re talking long-term, but he is the future if you’re talking the rest of 2013. The Vikes have made it clear that this is Freeman’s team for the remainder of the season, that they are in full-on evaluation mode with Freeman and have no interest in seeing Christian Ponder out there again as the starter.
So where does that leave Christian Ponder? For now, it leaves him sitting on the bench hoping for another opportunity. Whether that opportunity comes with the Vikings or some other team, no one can say. Ponder himself has hinted that he would prefer to get another chance elsewhere, but for that to happen the Vikes would have to swing a trade, and for a trade to become reality some other team would have to want/need Christian Ponder.
Is there a team out there with a vital need for a quarterback? There would seem to be several. But is Christian Ponder a good fit with any of these QB-needy teams? That is the real question.
Looking at the teams with QB issues right now, is there one that leaps out at you as a possible destination for Ponder?
Jay Cutler may be out for the season after suffering a significant groin tear against the Redskins. We’ve seen in the past what happens to the Bears when Cutler goes out – basically they go in the tank – but this time things may be different. Josh McCown played well after Cutler went out Sunday, nearly leading the Bears to a victory. McCown seems pretty comfortable in Marc Trestman’s offense and the Bears may be happy with McCown as their starter for the remainder of the season. Right now they are looking for a backup, and they can find that without giving up a draft pick for Ponder.
The Cardinals are having QB issues again. Carson Palmer can still be effective when he gets a clean pocket, but with Arizona’s atrocious line, he rarely has a clean pocket. The Cards might look at Ponder as a guy with a little more mobility who can operate without the best blocking. Of course we’ve seen in Minnesota that Ponder’s “mobility” is a bit overrated at least when it comes to keeping plays alive and going downfield. If the Cardinals want to add a QB who can move but doesn’t really instinctively grasp the scramble-to-pass game? Maybe they’d cough up a fourth for Ponder.
Who is even playing QB for the Jags? I think it’s Chad Henne. Their season is so totally in the tank, maybe they’d be amenable to adding an experienced QB in-season in hopes that he might catch on – sort of the same way the Vikes were thinking when they signed Josh Freeman. Difference is, the Vikes got Freeman without having to give up a pick. A team like Jacksonville probably should hold onto its picks.
Anyone who watched Cleveland against the Packers Sunday realizes that Brandon Weeden isn’t the answer unless you’re deliberately trying to lose games through incompetent quarterbacking. I legitimately think that Ponder is a better QB than Weeden right now. Neither is especially accurate but at least with Ponder you can usually tell where he’s trying to throw it. Weeden may have a better arm but Ponder actually seems more polished, which is scary for Weeden. Both QBs tend to make dumb decisions with the ball in critical situations. Cleveland might actually think they have a shot at the playoffs this year and might therefore be willing to part with a mid-round pick for a non-Weeden option.
St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford is out for the year with a torn ACL. Basically this looks like a lost season for the Rams, a team that came into 2013 with decent expectations. I can’t really see the logic of giving up a mid-round pick for a guy like Ponder mid-season when your year is already pretty much headed for the toilet. The Rams aren’t climbing back into the division race with San Francisco and Seattle and they’re likely not going to contend for a wild card. Better to ride out the year with Kellen Clemens and hope Bradford can come back healthy for 2014.
The Bills started over at QB with zone-read guy E.J. Manuel, but lost Manuel to injury early in the campaign. Now they’re rolling with Thad Lewis, who went into Miami on Sunday and beat the Dolphins. Lewis can run Buffalo’s zone-read scheme which obviously is a plus for him and them. Behind him they have Matt Flynn, who is no one’s idea of a zone-read quarterback. Neither is Christian Ponder, though he is at least more mobile than Flynn. This doesn’t really look like a fit.
Not a lot of great options out there if you’re looking to trade Ponder right now for a mid-round pick. Teams just aren’t willing to part with draft picks in the middle of the season for quick fixes (unless Brad Childress is making the personnel decisions). Maybe someone would give you a late-round pick, but I just don’t think a trade like that makes sense for the Vikings.
Ponder may want out-of-town, but the Vikes are under no pressure to oblige him. If there’s no market for him? Then there’s no reason to try and trade him. Makes more sense to hold onto him and see where you are at the end of the season. You may end up needing Christian Ponder in 2014, especially if Josh Freeman doesn’t work out. And even if Freeman does work out, or if by some miracle you’re able to draft your QB of the future in 2014 and he can start right away, you’ll still need a backup. Current #3 Matt Cassel has an out in his contract and might not want to stick around.
Like it or not, Ponder probably sticks on this roster for the rest of 2013, and unless a trade market miraculously materializes for him in the offseason, my guess is he ends up staying until the end of 2014 when his own contract expires. For now, Ponder has more value to the Vikes as a backup/emergency 2014 starter option than as trade bait.