Friday, March 7, 2014
Cassel brings Vikings back from QB brink
By Ben Goessling
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ever since Matt Cassel opted out of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings after the Super Bowl, bringing him back for the 2014 season and buying some time at the quarterback position was always the move that made the most sense. The Vikings approached it that way, too, talking with Cassel's agent at the NFL scouting combine and letting him know they'd like to have him back.
Put simply, while Cassel is far from a perfect option, the alternatives without him were too dicey for the Vikings to approach it any other way. That's why the Vikings re-signed Cassel to two years for $10 million.
Had they not brought Cassel back, they would have had to navigate the following currents to find a starting quarterback:
1. The rest of the free agent market is thin, with a soon-to-be 34-year-old Michael Vick possibly being the best option.
2. The eighth pick in the draft means the Vikings could be on the clock with Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel already off the board.
3. The Vikings' only other quarterback under contract before the start of free agency was Christian Ponder.
Now, the Vikings at least have their much-discussed bridge to the future, whatever that is. If they don't get a quarterback in the first round of the draft, they can at least take one in a later round and let him compete for the job with Cassel, knowing they can probably survive if he's not ready to play right away. And if they choose to look toward a 2015 quarterback class that could include Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley, they could have Cassel's hand at the helm for 2014.
Let's be clear about what Cassel is, and is not. He is the most reliable quarterback on the Vikings' roster at the moment, after turning in more solid performances than bad ones in a goofy year at quarterback in Minnesota. He is not the kind of QB the Vikings will build around, and his two-year deal reflects that. He's had two good full seasons as a starting quarterback -- in 2008 for the Patriots and 2010 for the Chiefs -- and has been mediocre in the full-time role otherwise. But the Vikings were never asking Cassel to be a long-term solution at the position. They were simply hoping he could drive them from here to their next quarterback without banging the car up too badly. He should be able to do that, and now, the Vikings don't have to head into the rest of the spring staring at a gaping hole at the NFL's most important position.
The Vikings shouldn't feel like they don't have a major need at quarterback. They should feel like they don't have an imminent crisis on their hands. They've bought themselves some assurance, and Cassel -- who was scheduled to make $3.7 million under the terms of his old deal -- has a better contract with a team that should give him a good chance to play. That sounds like a good, sensible deal for all parties involved.