I got to wake up this morning to the news that Matt Cassel has, apparently, decided to void the final year of his contract and test free agency. Remember when I mentioned that Christian Ponder was the only quarterback on the roster the Minnesota Vikings had absolute control of at this point and folks were all like, "NO WAY MAN, PONDER IS TEH SUCK AND THERE'S NO WAY HE'S BACK NEXT YEAR!!!1!11!ELEVEN!?"
Well, that's the scenario as it stands right now. Ponder is the only quarterback on the roster. Cassel is a free agent, Josh Freeman is a free agent, and Ponder is in the last year of his rookie deal. I'm honestly pretty surprised that Cassel voided his deal. . .I think the list of teams where he even has a shot at being the starting quarterback is shorter than you can count on one hand, and Minnesota would have to be at the top of the list. But, that's where we are at the present time, so we need to take a look at what could, potentially, be out there.
And it's ugly.
When taking a glance at the list of impending free agents from NFL.com, you will notice that there are no quarterbacks on their list of the Top 25 free agents available. In fact, of their Top 25 free agents, only six play on the offensive side of the ball at all, and four of those six are offensive linemen. The only two "skill position" players on their list are New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham (and if that guy leaves New Orleans, I'll eat my hat, your hat, and one other hat of your choosing) and Denver wide receiver Eric Decker, who I'm getting word is just now arriving in New Jersey for Super Bowl XLVIII.
So what is there when we get to the quarterback position? Well, the biggest name on the list is Michael Vick. That kind of sums things up. Vick hasn't started more than 13 games in a season since coming back from his stint in the Virginia Penal League in 2007 and 2008, and outside of his 2010 season, hasn't been terribly impressive during that time. I'm not sure how well he'd fit into the Norv Turner offense. . .I'm sure Arif would have a much better idea (as he would about pretty much every other quarterback on the list). . .and that's really the most important thing the Vikings need to look at if they're going to pursue a quarterback in free agency.
The next most "prominent" names on the list?
-Josh McCown, who may or may not want to retire after putting together a decent season for the Bears in 2013.
-Matt Flynn. . .well, that de-escalated quickly. . .who collected paychecks from four different NFL teams in 2013, and not because he was awesome.
-Tarvaris Jackson. Yes, he's still in the league.
-Jimmy Clausen. See "Tarvaris Jackson."
-Brady Quinn. See "Jimmy Clausen."
-Rex Grossman, because "F*** IT I'M GOIN' DEEP!"
And the list only gets worse from that point on. Seriously.
With Matt Cassel opting out of his deal, the need for the Minnesota Vikings to get themselves a quarterback is much greater than it was, and it was already a huge need. This offense has talent. . .they averaged over 24 points/game even with the circus they ran out there at quarterback every week, and all of the key pieces from that offense are going to be in place next season, along with (hopefully) an upgrade at left guard and a different #2 running back. With Norv Turner now running things on that side of the ball, things are going to improve for the Vikings offensively.
So, given the list of free agent quarterbacks and the talent. . .or lack thereof. . .that's going to be available, don't be surprised if the Vikings go whole hog on upgrading the second-worst defense in Minnesota history (in terms of points allowed) and worry about quarterback in the draft. There's a lot of talent available in free agency on the defensive side of the ball, and depending on who the Vikings cut or restructure, they're going to have a lot of cash to play with just to get to the mandated salary floor in 2014.