MINNEAPOLIS -- It's entirely possible that the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback quandary could have a simple solution for the 2014 season. They could draft one with the eighth overall pick in May, or they could find a new deal to bring back Matt Cassel, either to play while they develop a draft pick or to tide them over while they continue looking for a young passer.
But it's also entirely possible that neither scenario will come to fruition, now that Cassel has opted out of his 2014 contract and the Vikings will have to compete for his services while figuring out if they'd like to spend the No. 8 pick on a quarterback or go in a different direction.
If they don't have Cassel or a first-rounder, where else could they go at quarterback next season? Let's look at some possible scenarios:
The Vikings won't find many options here who would solve their problem for more than a year or two. Michael Vick (who turns 34 in June), Josh McCown (who turns 35 in July) and Matt Schaub (who will be 33 in June) aren't the kinds of quarterbacks the Vikings could build around, and while Mark Sanchez doesn't turn 28 until November, he's never completed more than 56.7 percent of his passes in a season. Sanchez might be worth thinking about at the right price, simply because the Vikings would have more time to work with him, but at best, it'd be a while before they knew if they could coax anything more out of him. Quarterbacks like Matt Flynn, Jason Campbell, Chad Henne and (gulp) Tarvaris Jackson probably aren't anything more than backups.
This could be a legitimate possibility for the Vikings, especially since they have an extra third-round pick, though it's difficult to know if any of the young starters-in-waiting they might be able to get would be any more reliable than a young draft pick. Kirk Cousins struggled when the Redskins turned to him late last year, and Ryan Mallett has only thrown four passes in the NFL. The Vikings would have had a chance to evaluate Mallett before the 2011 draft, when they took Christian Ponder, though three years learning behind Tom Brady can do wonders for a player's stock (it certainly helped Cassel when he got his chance to prove himself in 2008). Mallett and Adrian Peterson have a friendly relationship through a mutual coaching connection, and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has done a number of deals with the Patriots. If the Patriots were open to moving him, it's possible the Vikings could take a look.
LATER DRAFT PICKS
If the Vikings didn't deem a quarterback worth drafting at No. 8, they'd have a few quarterbacks available to them who built impressive college resumes. Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Georgia's Aaron Murray and LSU's Zach Mettenberger (assuming he's recovered from a knee injury) all could be taken on the second day of the draft, and it's possible Fresno State's Derek Carr could be around when the Vikings make the 40th overall pick, too. Alabama's A.J. McCarron, who won two national championships, and San Jose State's David Fales could be options later in the draft, and Miami's Stephen Morris, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and North Carolina's Bryn Renner will likely get a look from the Vikings. If they went this route, though, it's tough to see them not adding a veteran quarterback to help them get through at least the early part of the season; Ponder is still under contract, and could be around, but it's hard to envision the Vikings going into the season with only Ponder and a rookie who's not a high draft pick.