Dec 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) warms up before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Ponder is NFL.com's Top Trade Candidate

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NFL.com released a list of the top ten trade candidates for over the summer, and a Minnesota Viking showed up at first on the list.

Christian Ponder was listed as the top candidate to be traded this offseason, even though he will still be getting some first team reps at OTAs.

Ponder, the 12th overall pick in 2011, clearly is no longer part of the team’s future plans after the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater 32nd overall in the 2014 Draft. The Vikings already declined the fifth year option on Ponder’s contract earlier this offseason, meaning they have no commitment to him beyond the 2014 season.

If that’s the case, it does seem odd that the Vikings would almost throw away first team reps with Ponder if they truly have no interest in letting him see the field anytime in 2014. The Vikings do want to project the image that competition is open at every spot on the roster, but I doubt anyone in Winter Park really believes Ponder has a shot at the job.

The Vikings could free up a decent amount of salary cap room if they could swing a trade for Ponder, as his fully guaranteed rookie contract, including signing bonus, is currently worth about $3.2 million total for this season, all of which would be dead money if he were to be cut, according to Spotrac.

As NFL.com points out, Ponder could still be worth that money to another franchise in need of a younger backup, especially since Ponder still has some potential upside left in him. It just seems unlikely at this point that he will achieve that upside with the team that drafted him.

Dec 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) warms up passing before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals beat the Minnesota Vikings by the score of 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

Potential trade partners the website listed included the Saints, Packers, Panthers and Falcons. While the Packers re-signed Matt Flynn earlier this offseason, the other three teams could all use a younger backup.

The Panthers currently have 30 year old Derek Anderson as their backup to Cam Newton, but Anderson doesn’t have the mobility Newton and Ponder do. The Panthers wouldn’t have to throw out the movement based parts of their playbook if Ponder were ever to step in for an unavailable Newton.

The Saints backup is 32 year old Luke McCown (brother of the Buccaneers’ Josh McCown), which should not be a comforting thought for Saints fans. At the very least, Ponder could give the team a younger backup to mold behind Drew Brees in the case of an emergency.

The Falcons are another team with scary depth behind their franchise quarterback. Right now Dominique Davis, an undrafted free agent in 2012, is the man behind Matt Ryan. Ponder offers some of the same pluses as Davis, such as mobility, but with more NFL experience and a higher pedigree.

Of course, the key to any Ponder trade would be what the Vikings would get in return. Teams know the Vikings aren’t committed to Ponder, and they may hesitate to give up a draft pick for a guy they could pick up cheaply in free agency next year.

But with many starting quarterbacks going down last season, teams can also never be too careful about their backup situation. If Blaine Gabbert can fetch a sixth round pick for Jacksonville, the Vikings should hopefully be able to work out a similar deal for Ponder.

Keep in mind that the Jaguars likely predicted the pick they received would be at the bottom of the sixth round, so it may be unrealistic for the Vikings to ask for a sixth from a team like the Falcons, who may be closer to the top of the draft again. But getting a sixth or a seventh for a guy you don’t want anymore, while clearing up more salary cap space for possible extensions, seems like a smart idea for the Vikings.

What do you think Vikings fans? Would you take a late round pick for Ponder right now? Or do you think the depth he provides is too valuable to give up? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @Goatman102!

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