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OFFSEASON PREVIEW: The Passers

Okay, so we are days away from the highly anticipated period known as free agency to begin, except that it likely will not begin thanks to the CBA negotiations. 

Regardless, one of the most popular features I ran last offseason were the “Offseason Previews” in which I break the Vikings down position-by-position and do my best to highlight their options.  Last year, I actually did fairly well in predicting which free agents would be retained by the Vikings, that they would be almost completely absent from free agency, and what positions they would target in the draft.

This offseason is a lot less predictable, however.  But that isn’t going to stop me from trying.

And I will begin by talking about the least predictable position of the bunch:  Quarterbacks.

2010 Season

After a fairytale 2009 season coming to an unhappy ending, the Vikings refused to address the quarterback position’s long-term stability out of fear that investing in the position would cause Brett Favre to stay retired.  On one hand the strategy worked, as Favre did return.  On the other hand, however, the strategy failed because Favre stunk.

With the return of Favre and the surprising change of position for Joe Webb, the Vikings shipped Sage Rosenfels to the Giants and will have an extra fifth rounder in this year’s draft as a result.  Tarvaris Jackson was also on the team.

With sketchy blocking and the absence of Sidney Rice, Favre did indeed stink.  After toughing out a laundry list of medical issues and criticism for his 69.9 quarterback rating, Favre’s iron man streak came to an end.

The Vikings opted to turn to Tarvaris Jackson who posted an even worse quarterback rating (63.9) and seemingly got injured on every other snap.

Soon, all eyes turned towards rookie Joe Webb, and despite posting the worst quarterback rating (60.9) of all the team’s signal callers, Webb became a fan favorite and an immediate dark horse candidate for the Vikings quarterback of the future label.  He enamored fans with his athleticism (18 rushes, 120 yards, 2 TDs) during his two starts and showed flashes of brilliance, particularly in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Current Roster

Brett Favre has retired and even if he decides to return, we can feel confident that it will not be to play for the Vikings.  Tarvaris Jackson is once again set to become a free agent and his name has come up in conversation so little this offseason it is almost humorous.  He won’t be back.

That leaves Webb and Rhett Bomar, who was swiped off of the Giants practice squad at the end of the season, as the only arms on the roster.  They have a combined total of two NFL starts (both belonging to Webb) and while the potential might be there, both are relative question marks at this point.

Both guys are inexpensive and under contract well into the future.

Free Agency

The lack of experience at the quarterback position would leave many to believe that the team would be interested in acquiring a seasoned vet via free agency, and they just might be.

The problem is, however, that there isn’t much to choose from.

With Peyton Manning and Mike Vick being franchised by their respective teams the best quarterback set to be available in free agency could very well be the 35 year old, and oft-injured, Matt Hasselbeck.  Hasselbeck has shown only glimpses of his old self in recent years and I can’t help but wonder how much he has left.

Other possibilities include Marc Bulger (35), Billy Volkek (35), Bruce Gradkowski (28), Alex Smith (27), Rex Grossman (31), and Matt Moore (27).

Not a whole lot to get too excited about here.

Other Possibilities

Some more appealing options may exist if the Vikings are willing to be patient and see who becomes available via trade or who is cut later on in the offseason.

Current speculation centers around Carson Palmer and Vince Young, both of whom would seemingly be able to keep the Vikings competitive while they developed Webb, Bomar, and a rookie.  Another name I would throw out there right now is Tony Romo, especially if Jerry Jones falls head over heels for the “entertainer and icon” Cam Newton.

Kevin Kolb has been another name being tossed around, but I expect the Eagles are asking too much for this unproven passer.

The issues with these scenarios are, of course, cost.  Teams are unlikely to just let their starting quarterbacks leave without getting compensation, so the Vikings must invest wisely if they go this route.

Draft Prospects

The 2011 class of quarterbacks is an interesting one.  It has been a long time since I have seen a group of passers that have such undefined draft stock this late in the process.

Blain Gabbert is a consensus top-15 pick despite his areas of concern.  Other guys like Cam Newton, Jake Locker, and Ryan Mallett are all over the map in terms of “expert” opinions.  In round two, there are a number of players that could be selected such as Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder, and Andy Dalton.

Even after those guys are gone, there are going to be a number of decent prospects available in Ricky Stanzi, Pat Devlin, Nathan Enderle, and Greg McElroy.

While I do not think it is a given that the Vikings will use their first round pick on a quarterback, I do think they will identify “their guy” prior to the draft and then target him on the day of.  I would expect this selection to involve the Vikings moving around and finally taking their quarterback towards the end of the first round or top of the second.

Projections

My guess?  The Vikings will come out of this offseason having acquired one new rookie quarterback and one new veteran quarterback. 

As I said, the rookie will likely come from the first half of the draft.

How I expect them to get their veteran, on the other hand, is another story.  I really don’t like what I see in the free agency class, so don’t be surprised if the Vikes deal for a guy currently on another team’s roster.  If free agency (including all player trades) cannot happen until after the draft due to a lockout, then the pick they would be trading would be for 2012 or beyond.  Picks are easier to cough up when the draft is such a long ways off.

In the end, the Viking shave to be aggressive in addressing the quarterback position, and quick about it, if they want to be competitive in 2011.


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19 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: The Passers”

  1. vk4life says:

    hey Adam great read, I really like Dalton I think he could be one of the sleeper picks in this draft. Part of me wants Mallett to become a Vike and prove everyone wrong as well. Either one should come in and sit behind a vet we bring in for 1 or 2 yrs.

  2. B. Grant says:

    I am of the opinion, though a minority one it may likely be, that Carson Palmer is in desperate need of a change of scenery, and that he has some good football left in him. He has the snaps under center, the experience to at least have seen most everything a QB needs to see, and better than average physical zip and accuracy on his passes. I understand that he sometimes makes some ill-advised choices, but I think the Bengal surroundings got in his head a little bit. (Who can run an offense with receivers like this ocho guy and Owens?) Given the choices available, and now that he has said he will never again play for the Bengals, he may well be a worthwhile and affordable option as we also bring in a bona-fide prospect from the draft.

  3. Lost Viking says:

    Picking a QB is an art and relies upon judgment and luck. Accuracy is critical but you also have to assess intangibles.

    “It takes nerve and smarts for a personnel exec to turn down a candidate with a big arm who tests high in speed and agility, in favor of a prospect who is a little less outwardly impressive. Polian made one of the great all time decisions in 1998 when he drafted Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf. It’s a no brainer now but it was an agonizing choice back then. Leaf was bigger and more overtly athletic, but to Polian, Manning seemed to have more emotional maturity and ability to deal with adversity. It was exactly the right assessment; Leaf turned out to have buried temperament problems and caused the San Diego Chargers nothing but grief.

    It wasn’t the first time Polian was correct: he also brought Jim Kelly to the Buffalo Bills from the USFL. If Polian has a secret, it’s that he tries not to overrate the physical in favor of the mental and emotional aspects of the game. Just because a guy has an arm doesn’t make him a quarterback. Rather than pure strength, he puts a premium on accuracy and poise, and a particular kind of processing intelligence that he calls “fast eyes,” the ability to assess complex situations quickly.

    “Intelligence is awfully important,” Polian says. “It’s a complex game and they have to be able to comprehend and process lots of information. It’s not rocket science but it’s pretty close, it’s like financial engineering, or the things that pilots do.”

    • TF says:

      I think your opening sentence speaks volumes, and I couldn’t agree more. It sucks to say, but luck is a very important factor in finding our next big thing. Also have to agree with the importance of intangibles, and would have to throw in that you need to have a desire and work ethic to be the absolute best. Great comment.

  4. CalVkg says:

    i’m not looking for the vikes to be very competitive next season no matter what we do, so if we’re in a rebuilding phase, i expect a non-QB to be taken with the 1st, or to trade down the 1st pick if it’s going to be involved in taking a QB, unless we see someone unexpectedly fall into our 1st round spot. that means a 2nd rd. QB, which would be a better gamble if he’s a bust, then we might sign a vet QB for the short term, and we’d have three choices to decide our future from.

    i like webb, he might be given more of a chance to start than a lot of people think, and we might just let him learn through our rebuilding phase instead of getting a FA, but i doubt it

  5. VikingJohn says:

    Who is having the draft party this year?
    Is it Freddie’s turn?

  6. Norseman66 says:

    Adam,
    I do believe the Vikes will have 4 QB’s on their roster during camp and preseason. However, there’s no way they’ll keep 4 on the roster after that. So either Webb or Bomar will be cut. Which one get’s the boot? My guess is Bomar, but they must have seen something in him to sign him to a long term contract. Just say’in.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      I agree that is the liekly scenario.

      I meantioned a while back, however…

      if Webb is not the starter is he too talented to keep sitting on the bench? Or is his versatility enough to have him play a specialty role (think Brad Smith or Josh Cribs)and thus carry four QB’s on the 53 man roster (which could increase closer to 60 man roster depending on CBA).

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