Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Posts about Vikings quarterbacks

Vikings rapt observers at Manziel's Pro Day

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: March 27, 2014 - 3:49 PM

The Vikings are very interested in Johnny Manziel.

Manziel had his pro day at Texas A&M today, and by all accounts, he acquitted himself well. The Vikings were represented by GM Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.

NFL.com reported the Vikings contingent would be having dinner with Manziel tonight and would then have formal meetings with him tomorrow.

When asked about Manziel's performance -- which came before a large crowd that included former President George H.W. Bush -- Zimmer told Charean Williams of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:  "It was different. It was a different workout." Because of the crazy atmosphere, Zimmer also told Williams it was a "sideshow" and that the Vikings would have a private workout with Manziel that wouldn't be choreographed, as Pro Day quarterback workouts tend to be.

Williams reported there were eight NFL head coaches and eight NFL general managers in attendance.

Coincidentally, the Vikings have the eighth pick in the draft.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported every NFL team was represented by someone except the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears.

Here are the video highlights of Manziel's workout.

Manziel told the NFL Network: "My main thing is I'm not scared of anything. I don't play that way. Why come out here in a scripted workout and be scared of anything? Throw the pigskin around and let's have fun. This was a football player's dream."

He completed 61 of 64 passes during the workout, ending with a 60-yard bomb.

The Plain Dealer also quoted Norv Turner, who was the Browns' offensive coordinator last season. Said Turner:  “I think coaches and scouts want to see a quarterback physically throw the ball. You get to watch game tape and see how he plays. This guy is an amazing player, and then you see his physical skills. It just helps to see a guy in person . . .

“Here’s the deal: You only get so many opportunities to evaluate a player, and to not use every single one of them makes no sense to me. We’re going to exhaust every opportunity to evaluate a player. You get an opportunity to meet with a guy, and who knows what will come out of that? It might be something good . . . If you’re allowed to do these things, it makes sense to do them.”

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle had some interesting observations.

By the way, the Vikings confirmed the signing of Vlad Ducasse today.  The former Jets guard agreed to a one-year deal on Monday.

Oh yeah, if you haven't seen Adrian Peterson's Hyperice promo, here it is.

Matt Cassel to re-sign with Vikings

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: March 7, 2014 - 8:08 PM

Quarterback Matt Cassel, set to become an unrestricted free agent this weekend, is re-signing with the Vikings, according to two NFL sources.

Cassel's new contract is for two years. He would be considered a bridge to the next Vikings quarterback, likely a draft choice this season.

Jason LaCanfora of cbsports.com reported the deal was worth $10 million. For comparison sake, the Jaguars signed another "bridge" quarterback, Chad Henne, to a two-year deal on Friday that is worth $8 million, including $4.5 million guaranteed.

The agreement was first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (@rapsheet).

Cassel, 31, opted out of a two-year contract he signed with the Vikings in 2013 that was worth $7.4 million.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has said, during the offseason, that the team would like to sign a veteran quarterback in free agency and also draft a college quarterback.

Teams are allowed to begin negotiating with unrestricted free agents who weren't with their teams last year on Saturday, but cannot sign them until Tuesday.

Cassel last spoke with reporters after the Vikings’ season-ending 14-13 victory over the Lions in the last game at the Metrodome on Dec. 29, saying: “I love playing for the Vikings. The fan base here is absolutely amazing. The team was special. It was a great team to play for. I really enjoyed my time with my wife, myself, my kids, a great community and everything else that goes along with it. So, would I love to be a Minnesota Viking? Absolutely, without a doubt.”

The Vikings have the eighth pick in the NFL draft on May 8. Of the first 11 teams drafting, five others have a need at quarterback. Four college quarterbacks — Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Blake Bortles of Central Florida, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Derek Carr of Fresno State — are projected to be top-10 picks.

Cassel played in nine games for the Vikings last season, starting six. He was 25th in the NFL in passer rating (81.6). In a Dec. 15. victory over Philadelphia he had the best performance by a Vikings QB this season — 26-for-35 for 382 yards and two TDs.

Ponder is also under contract through 2014. The 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, he signed a four-year contract for $10.15 million that is fully guaranteed. His signing bonus of $5.8 million is paid out evenly over the four years.

Cassel was a backup to Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer at USC, and is the only modern-era quarterback who never started a college game to have started an NFL game.

The Patriots drafted Cassel in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2005 draft, and he was a backup to Tom Brady for four seasons in New England. In 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game, and Cassel played the rest of the season, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. With his four-year contract expiring, the Patriots gave him the franchise tag early in 2009 and traded him to Kansas City for linebacker Mike Vrabel and a second-round draft choice.

Cassel's big season with the Patriots paid off. The Chiefs signed him to a  six-year, $63 million contract that included $28 million in guaranteed money. He started in 2009, and in 2010 made the Pro Bowl as Kansas City won the AFC West. He injured his hand after 10 games in 2011, however, and after starting in 2012 he eventually lost his job to Brady Quinn.

Cassel officially opts out of Vikings contract

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: February 7, 2014 - 11:02 AM

Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel officially opted out of the final year of his two-year contract today, Pro Football Talk reported, citing a league source.

Cassel signed a two-year, $7.4 million deal before last season to back up Christian Ponder. By the end of the season, Cassel was the team's starter.

By exploring the free agent market, Cassel stands to get a long term contract for more money.  The Vikings could still re-sign him when free agency begins March. 8.

Report: Vikings QB Matt Cassel to test free agency

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: February 5, 2014 - 1:53 PM

Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel will opt out of his team-friendly contract before Friday’s deadline, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. Cassel's deal would have been worth $3.7 million this season, but had the option to forgo the final season of a two-year, $7.4 million deal he signed last year wi­th the Vikings.

Calls to Cassel's agent, David Dunn, were not immediately returned.

The move makes sense for Cassel. It's a very thin free agency class for quarterbacks this offseason, headlined by Michael Vick, Josh McCown, Kellen Clemens and Josh Freeman, who spent the final 12 games of the season with the Vikings.

Cassel would climb, arguably, to the top of that free agent class as a serviceable quarterback looking for a multi-year deal. He’ll likely get more money than he would’ve received if he decided to remain with the Vikings under his current contract.

Of course, Cassel could also re-sign with the Vikings for more money after free agency opens March 11. At the moment, Christian Ponder is the only quarterback on the Vikings' roster.

Whether the Vikings can sign Cassel remains unknown given the demand at quarterback. Six of the top 11 teams in the NFL Draft need a quarterback. Given the free agency class and the uncertainly of how many rookie quarterbacks would be ready to start immediately, Cassel could be looked at as a starting short-term quarterback for a franchise that seeks to develop its future quarterback through the draft.

If Cassel didn’t opt out of his deal, the Vikings would owe him a $500,000 roster bonus (which is part of the $3.7 million) if he is still on the team a week after the official league season begins March 11.

Cassel, 31, played in nine games for the Vikings this season, starting six. He was 25th in the NFL in passer rating (81.6).  Cassel started Week 4 against Pittsburgh in London when Christian Ponder was injured and led the Vikings to their first victory. Freeman was signed the following (bye) week, and Cassel struggled in a loss to Carolina. He returned to backup status, replacing Ponder in three games, twice because of injury. In Week 13, he beat Chicago after replacing an injured Ponder in the second half, and claimed the starting job with a strong performance in a loss at Baltimore the following week. In a Dec. 15. victory over Philadelphia, he had the best performance by a Vikings QB this season — 26-for-35 for 382 yards and two TDs.  His passer rating of 90.7 was 13th in the NFL at that time, but fell after a loss to Cincinnati and a season-ending victory over Detroit.

Ponder, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, signed a four-year contract for $10.15 million that is fully guaranteed. His signing bonus of $5.8 million is paid out evenly over the four years. For 2014, his salary is $1.76 million with another bonus of nearly $1.5 million. If the Vikings cut him this offseason, they would be on the hook for that money and a $3.2 million salary cap hit.

Cassel's career has been full of ups and downs.  He was a backup to Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer at USC, and is the only modern-era quarterback who never started a college game to have started an NFL game.

The Patriots drafted Cassel in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2005 draft, and he was a backup to Tom Brady for four seasons in New England. In 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game, and Cassel played the rest of the season, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. With his four-year contract expiring, the Patriots gave him the franchise tag early in 2009 and traded him to Kansas City for linebacker Mike Vrabel and a second-round draft choice.

Cassel's big season with the Patriots paid off. The Chiefs signed him to a  six-year, $63 million contract that included $28 million in guaranteed money. He started in 2009, and in 2010 made the Pro Bowl as Kansas City won the AFC West. He injured his hand after 10 games in 2011, however, and after starting in 2012 he eventually lost his job to Brady Quinn.

Cassel was released last March, and the Vikings quickly signed him to back up Ponder. Here's Mark Craig's feature story on Ponder, written before last season.

Cassel named 'Air Player of the Week'

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: December 20, 2013 - 4:08 PM

Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel was named the FedEx Air Player of the Week.

Cassel threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns in the 48-30 victory over Philadelphia. He also rushed for a touchdown.

Since taking over the starting quarterback role on December 1, 2013, vs. Chicago, Cassel has thrown for 890 yards, third-most in the NFL during that span behind Tom Brady (1,153) and Peyton Manning (1,089).

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