Donovan McNabb Is Still In Play for the Vikings (It Looks Like)


The single most important question the Vikings need to answer this off-season is, “Who will play quarterback in 2011 and beyond?”

The beyond part may be answered by the draft, depending on how the chips fall. The 2011 part? Maybe there’s a rookie phenom among this year’s draft prospects at QB, but I wouldn’t bet the house on this being the case.

Given the long odds against the Vikings finding a Matt Ryan among this year’s QB crop, the likelihood is that the Vikings’ starter for 2011 will be someone with at least a small amount of NFL experience. The only person currently on their roster who fits that description is Joe Webb, who played in parts of 5 games in 2010, and started 2.

Webb is certainly in the discussion for 2011. However, most agree it would behoove the Vikings to add one more QB to the mix before training camp, be that guy an old warhorse or a youngish veteran hungry for a chance to start.

The list of guys who could fill that bill for the Vikings is not very long and frankly not very distinguished. Up until yesterday that list seemed to include Kyle Orton, but now that John Fox has named him the starter over Tim Tebow, don’t look for him to hit the market.

The subtraction of Orton leaves the pickings even slimmer. One name that remains in play however, at least in theory, is current Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.

McNabb was believed to be in the Vikings’ sights last off-season, but Brad Childress ultimately decided to wait for Brett Favre instead. McNabb was finally traded to Washington where he had, it’s safe to say, a less-than-distinguished year.

By season’s end, McNabb was done with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and Shanahan seemed done with him. However, certain comments by Shanahan led some to believe the door was still open for McNabb to return to the Skins in 2011.

Now however, the door on McNabb staying in Washington appears to have been slammed shut. In a series of tweets earlier today, NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora spelled out McNabb’s status with the Redskins after a long meeting between Shanny and Donovan’s agent:

"Mike Shanahan’s 90 minute meeting with [McNabb’s agent Fletcher Smith] has not altered McNabb’s desire to play elsewhere in 2011 and have ability to start. Shanahan has not talked to QB and all indications remain McNabb not back."

Shanahan told reporters that a decision on McNabb’s future will be made after the draft. If the Redskins were to take a QB with their #10 pick – Cam Newton, say – it would then be safe to assume that McNabb’s tenure with the Skins would be on a fast track to termination. Rex Grossman would then become the presumptive starter in Washington (no wonder McNabb wants out of Shannyland; being benched for Rex Grossman is more than any man should have to endure).

With McNabb on the way out of Washington, the Vikings would then be in a position to make a play for his services. But would McNabb even be a good match for a retooling Minnesota team?

With Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell in town, McNabb was seen as a perfect fit for the Purple and their version of the West Coast. However, with Bill Musgrave promising to revamp the West Coast, replacing the Chilly version with a more Steelers/Falcons-style system, McNabb may not be quite so ideal a candidate.

But there’s another way of looking at things. At times with the Eagles and especially last year with Washington, McNabb may have been hurt by having too much of the offensive burden placed on his shoulders. The Vikings, however, plan on featuring a run-heavy version of the West Coast, with Adrian Peterson as the featured weapon. It could be that McNabb would welcome the chance to play on a team with a legitimate running game, where the pressure would not be so squarely on him.

Even if the chance to play with AD intrigued Donovan, there are other aspects of the Vikings’ roster that might dampen his enthusiasm, namely the offensive line. That line, as we learned last year, is not exactly stout in pass protection. After a year spent running for his life in Washington, McNabb would likely cringe at the thought of once again having to play behind a porous line.

There are certainly reasons not to be thrilled by the prospect of Donovan McNabb suiting up for the Purple next year. He’s coming off a mediocre year at best, he is no longer young and he certainly doesn’t move like he used to. After a season spent watching Favre slowly crumble, Viking fans are rightly fed up with old broken-down former Pro Bowlers. A younger, sprier quarterback would certainly be a refreshing change.

That said, McNabb still brings things to the table that are worth considering. He has worlds of experience. Though he doesn’t move like he once did, he is certainly not as helplessly immobile as Favre was last year. He can still throw a deep ball. And, on a team with young superstars like Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson and (maybe) Sidney Rice, McNabb might enjoy a season of rejuvenation. After Shanny, almost anything would probably seem like a breath of fresh air.

The biggest plus is, the Vikings would not be picking McNabb up for the long-term. He would be at most a 2-year bridge option until somebody – Joe Webb, a new draft pick in 2011, a QB we haven’t even thought of yet – grew into the position. So we’d be able to send McNabb off somewhere else before he reached a Favre-like level of disintegration.

There are of course problems with the McNabb plan. The biggest one is money. McNabb is owed $12.5 million in salary plus option bonuses next year, which is a lot to take on. If the Vikings did try to make a deal with Washington, that deal would have to be contingent on McNabb renegotiating his contract.

The Redskins could of course cut McNabb outright, but most believe they will try to trade him for draft picks. That process could drag on almost till the start of next season, putting the Vikings in a precarious spot (insert remark about everything being contingent on the labor situation getting resolved). And of course there’s the matter of what you would have to give up. It’s unlikely the Redskins would command a very high price for McNabb, but if a second team jumped in, who knows?

The debate here isn’t about whether the Vikings need a veteran bridge quarterback – if they go with Webb and a new draft pick, they certainly will. The argument is about who among the available options would represent the best fit. For my money, Kevin Kolb would still be the best choice, because acquiring him would give the Vikings both a viable near-term and a potential long-term solution, the best of both worlds.

After Kolb, McNabb is the name that makes the most sense. Perhaps an argument could be made for Matt Hasselbeck, should he become available, but I still like McNabb better. I certainly like McNabb better than Vince Young, who has youth and talent but not much between the ears.

And who knows? Maybe if McNabb did get a kick in the pants from playing with some good young offensive weapons, and the offensive line came together better than expected, and Bill Musgrave turned out to be an offensive guru…

Why does this feel like 2009 all over again?

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