Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to face the stranger.
We saw last night that the Minnesota Vikings have brought Josh Freeman in as part of their quarterback mix for the remainder of this season, inking him to a one-year deal for about three million dollars. This obviously has quite a few ramifications for our favorite football team, and I'm going to attempt to go through them here.
We'll start with Freeman. Arif has done a very good job of breaking down exactly what Freeman potentially brings to this football team. While it's relatively positive, it also caveats that by saying that Freeman probably shouldn't see the field in 2013, which is something that I echoed when I first took a look at this whole thing.
Well, a one-year, $3 million contract tells me one thing. . .he's playing in 2013. It's just a matter of when. I don't think it's going to be this coming Sunday against the Carolina Panthers or anything, but with the way this whole situation has developed, I'm not sure if that would surprise me at this point, either. Maybe Freeman has a level of familiarity with the offense that I'm not aware of to this point, I don't know.
But the Vikings didn't give Freeman $3 million to stand on the sideline wearing a baseball cap and toting a clipboard. . .not for the next twelve weeks, in any case. As soon as the Vikings can get him ready, I'm guessing we'll see Freeman behind center. So what does this do for the Vikings overall at the quarterback situation?
The obvious one to look at is what this means for Christian Ponder. Ponder is now the third-highest paid quarterback on the Minnesota depth chart behind Matt Cassel ($3.7 million) and Freeman. This means that the Vikings' commitment to him as the unquestioned starter is undoubtedly over. As ardent a supporter of Christian Ponder as I've been over his tenure in Minnesota, this really doesn't break my heart or anything like that. The reason for that is that, for the first time since the Vikings drafted Ponder, they've added something unique to the team. . .a quarterback that's actually (potentially) better than Christian Ponder.
Really. . .we all saw that the 2011 version of Donovan McNabb wasn't better than Christian Ponder. (Remember when we wanted that guy benched so we could see what the rookie could do?) Matt Cassel isn't a better quarterback. If you want to posit that he is based on one start against a pretty awful football team, that's fine. I don't agree with that. And for all three of you on the North American continent that still, for whatever reason, believe that Joe Webb is, was, or will ever be a better quarterback at the NFL level than Christian Ponder. . .well, as they might say in the South, bless your hearts.
Freeman, on the other hand, is the first person that actually (potentially) represents an upgrade at the position in the "Ponder era." As I mentioned in my previous article, despite having two more years of NFL experience, Freeman is just six weeks older than Ponder, so he's still a "young quarterback." His highs have also been significantly higher, such as when he led the Buccaneers into the Metrodome last season on a Thursday night and led them to a 36-17 whooping of our favorite football team, handing them their only home loss of the 2012 season.
Freeman has shown the kind of arm to take advantage of the one-on-one coverage that guys like Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson will be receiving in an offense that still forces defenses to focus on the running game. Plus, as the breakdown that Arif did that's linked above shows, Freeman was asked to make a lot of very difficult throws in the Tampa Bay offense. The Vikings' offense won't ask him to make those throws at the same rate, and will do a lot more work in the middle of the field than the Buccaneers apparently did.
So, the Christian Ponder era is most likely over with in Minnesota. The two guys that are (nominally) second and third on the depth chart at this moment combine to make almost $7 million in salary, while Ponder is still only at a $2.7 million cap figure for this year and $3.2 million for 2014. I don't think the Vikings are going to release him or anything, as it would cost the Vikings about $3 million to turn him loose according to the folks at Over the Cap (in a situation where it appears they're going to have to make multiple roster moves to create cap space for themselves as it is). Do they move him to injured reserve? They might have some explaining to do if that happens, but I'm guessing that doesn't faze Rick Spielman and company. While the Ponder era is over in Minnesota, I think the guy is far from done as a National Football League quarterback. I'll just leave it at that for now.
It's certainly a new day for the Minnesota Vikings at quarterback. I'm not sure how they're going to handle the situation going forward, but it should be interesting, if nothing else.