Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Apparently, you weren't the only one disgusted with Joe Webb's performance in the Vikings' wild-card playoff loss at Green Bay.
It is indeed confirmed that the Vikings have signed quarterback Matt Cassel, the former Chiefs starter and long-ago Tom Brady backup in New England.
Cassel is an eight-year veteran with 62 career starts. He's been the starter in Kansas City the past five years. The year before that, he started 15 games for the Patriots after Brady went down with a knee injury in the season opener.
So he's got the experience that Webb didn't have. And we know he can throw better than Joe since Matt's best season came in 2010 when he passed for 3,116 yards, 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Now, the question becomes can he truly accept being Christian Ponder's backup. Not just when times are good, but when times are bad and every purple-painted fan is demanding that Cassel becomes the starter. (Note: That's probably already started, by the way).
Both General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier have made it perfectly clear that Ponder is and will remain the starter now and in the future. Frazier even said at the scouting combine that one of the prerequisites for any potential QB signee would be the full understanding that the starting job is not -- repeat, IS NOT! -- open for competition.
The Vikings definitely improved their backup quarterback situation for when Ponder isn't healthy enough to play. The question now is can they deal with the pressure that will come when Ponder is healthy but ineffective.
This ... could ... get ... really ... interesting.
As for Webb, we'll have to hear from the Vikings before speculating on his future. He would seem to be a prime candidate to be a No. 3 QB. In that role, he could actually put his speed and athleticism on the field in some capacity without fear of him getting hurt.
Yes, we know. We’ve really spent a lot of time drilling home the reality that the Vikings’ receiving corps is depleted right now. At present, the receivers under contract are Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton. That’s the trio that actually played in a game last season. There’s also Chris Summers, who was on the team’s practice squad.
And that brings us to the one question so many fans are wondering about: What about Greg Childs, a seemingly promising talent who spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve?
You’ll remember Childs was a fourth-round pick a year ago, once a rising star at the University of Arkansas whose college career was derailed in October 2010 when he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. The recovery time from that injury was slow. Childs returned in 2011 but was highly limited, totaling only 21 catches for 240 yards and zero scores for the enitre season.
But the Vikings saw enough flash, enough potential, enough promise to take a gamble on Childs in last year’s draft. And at times throughout OTAs, mini-camp and training camp, Childs displayed the blend of size, body control and sure hands that justified the Vikings’ hopes.
Said coach Leslie Frazier last August: “His size stands out. To have a big receiver who can run as well as he can and having the catching radius that he has gives you a belief that even when people have decent coverage, because of his size and ability to catch balls in tough spots, he has big-play potential.”
But then came the setback. A major one at that.
In the final minutes of a team scrimmage in training camp, Childs dove for a pass in the end zone and wound up rupturing the patellar tendons in both his left and right knees. It was a major injury and a disheartening setback. The 22-year-old receiver has since attacked his rehabilitation with great effort and positive energy. But the fact remains that a return to full health from injuries that severe registers somewhere between questionable and doubtful. In a league, where every fraction of a second, every little bit of burst matters, Childs has a long road back to even consider being a significant factor as an NFL receiver.
If it took him upwards of 18 months to feel right again after his college knee injury, what’s the realistic timetable of getting him back up to speed with two knees to work on and worry about?
To make a long story short, the Vikings have outside hopes that Childs can still be a part of their plans. But it’s far too early to count on that. And so as they go through the offseason with free agency and the draft, the only sensible way to approach business is with the worst-case scenario in mind: that Childs’ unfortunate injuries will keep him from being a major part of the equation at any point in 2013 or beyond.
The Kansas City Chiefs decision to officially release quarterback Matt Cassel on Thursday comes as little surprise. The organization had made its direction at the position very clear recently, first with the trade for Alex Smith and then with a subsequent signing of Chase Daniel.
So now Cassel hits the open market. And as it just so happens, the Vikings have a “Help Wanted” sign hung on the front door, seeking out a veteran backup to aid in the development of Christian Ponder while also providing insurance in case – for injury or some other reason – things don’t go as planned with Ponder in his third year as a starter.
So might this be the perfect match?
Jason LaCanfora of CBS believes the Vikings might be the team to beat for Cassel.
continue to hear Minnesota as a very likely landing spot for Cassel— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 14, 2013
But keep in mind, Cassel will have to decide whether he is willing to accept a reserve role. Over the past five seasons in Kansas City he made 62 starts. His best season arguably came in 2010 when he threw for 3,116 yards with 27 TD passes and only seven interceptions.
Cassel has eight NFL seasons under his belt, experience as a starter and the aptitude to provide solid support to Ponder.
The Vikings have made it very clear that their starting quarterback position is not open. And so, as coach Leslie Frazier laid out definitively last month at the combine, the Vikings will need whatever new quarterback they sign to have the right combination of talent and unselfishness.
Said Frazier: “It’s got to be a guy that comes in and understands Christian is our starting quarterback. … If the guy comes in and has the mindset that I’m going to create a problem in the locker room because he feels he should be the starter, that would not be a good fit.”
Phil Loadholt never wanted to be anywhere other than Minnesota. As a Viking. Sure it took the organization that drafted Loadholt in the second round in 2009 until the 11th hour Tuesday to prevent the mammoth right tackle from hitting free agency.
But in the end, Loadholt got everything he wanted. He got a lucrative deal – four years, $25 million.
He got the opportunity to stay put – anchoring the right side of an offensive line that will now return all five starters from a year ago.
He got his peace of mind back.
“I had let it be known publicly and privately that I wanted to be a Viking,” Loadholt said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m pretty sure that everybody knew that that was my priority coming into this situation. It took a little longer than I expected. But the business part of football is shaky. You never know what to expect. But ultimately everything ended up just right.”
No, technically Loadholt was never a free agent. The Vikings secured their new deal to re-sign him after 2 p.m. Tuesday, in the final hour before the NFL’s new league year began and free agency opened. But with the previous three-and-a-half days giving Loadholt’s agent an opportunity to measure other teams’ interest and determine a true market value, Loadholt held great leverage throughout a process that was still, in his words, stressful.
The Chicago Bears had expressed serious interest, aiming to overhaul an offensive line that has come unhinged over the past few years. And what their outside interest did was force the Vikings’ hand, causing them to reach deeper into the vault to get Loadholt the money he commanded.
He will be due to make $2.9 million in base salary in 2013 and could earn as much as $4.75 million.
Just as gratifying, Loadholt said, was the opportunity to remain a Viking, to continue plowing holes for league-MVP Adrian Peterson, to remain a part of a starting quintet up front that has seen its chemistry grow.
Loadholt said he never feared a possible departure. But he also never exhaled to feel like he would remain here for certain.
“Like I said, the business part of football is very shaky,” he said. “So it was definitely a tough time for myself and my family. You never know what can happen. So there was definitely times I was a little nervous.”
After signing Loadholt on Tuesday, General Manager Rick Spielman reiterated once again that the organization had accomplished one of the offseason’s top priorities. Spielman echoed head coach Leslie Frazier’s sentiments that Loadholt is still an ascending talent. Spielman lauded his physicality as a run blocker and his leadership skills and his continued growth under line coach Jeff Davidson.
In the end, Loadholt got what he wanted most: to stay put.
“I was thinking about coming in in ’09, being drafted here. Just the season we had last year. Adrian running for as many yards as he did last year, getting close to that (single-season) record. The continuity that I have with the guys here on the offensive line. I love playing for Coach Davidson, Coach Frazier. My family loves Minnesota. I could just keep going down the line. It was a great situation for me. I’m glad I’m back.”
A day after trading receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle, the Vikings have made their first move toward replenishing their receiving corps. It comes by way of re-signing Jerome Simpson to a one-year deal, according to an NFL source.
Salary figures for the deal are not yet known. But the Vikings had been intent on giving Simpson a second chance to prove himself if they could see eye-to-eye on contract details.
Apparently, they have with Simpson's return assuring quarterback Christian Ponder at least some continuity with his receiving corps. After Monday's blockbuster trade, Ponder was left with only two receivers who he had completed passes to: Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton.
Now Simpson is back in the fold and looking to rediscover top form in an offense that plans to give him significant opportunity to do so.
By all accounts, the Vikings' 2012 experiment with Simpson was a disappointment. After signing the athletic receiver to a one-year deal worth approximately $2 million last April, the Vikings had high hopes that Simpson would jell quickly with Ponder and provide the deep threat and vertical speed that would keep defenses honest.
The 2012 season totals: 26 catches, 274 yards, zero touchdowns.
So why would the Vikings put their hand back on that stove after apparently being burned by the Simpson signing last year?
Because on a one-year deal, Simpson again is in a prove-it situation. It's low risk for the Vikings with a guy who already has familiarity with both Ponder and the offensive system of coordinator Bill Musgrave. Furthermore, General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier seem convinced that Simpson's 2012 struggles were greatly exacerbated by his back troubles, which for a stretch, made it difficult for Simpson to push off and reach top speed when running routes. But with Simpson's back problems no longer a concern, there's a belief he can again fulfill his potential.
That, the Vikings promise, was evidenced in Simpson's debut with the team when he contributed four catches for 50 yards in a Week 4 win in Detroit. Simpson seemed closer to top form again in December aiding the Vikings' charge into the NFC playoffs with 11 catches for 98 yards in the final three wins.
Calvin Johnson numbers they weren't. But in an offense that relies so heavily on MVP running back Adrian Peterson, that modest production was cause for celebration. It gave the Vikings at least some potency in the passing game.
That gave Spielman hope. And he noted back in January that Simpson "has the potential to really thrive if we were able to get something done with him."
The deal is now done.
|Vikings (3323)||AFC (80)|
|Bears (393)||Ex-Vikings (37)|
|Football on TV (45)||Lions (297)|
|NFC (1237)||NFL draft (232)|
|NFL post-season (28)||Packers (437)|
|Super Bowl (222)||Vikings coaches (62)|
|Vikings defense (224)||Vikings fans (108)|
|Vikings injury report (248)||Vikings management (25)|
|Vikings off the field (246)||Vikings offense (316)|
|Vikings quarterbacks (219)||Vikings road games (61)|
|Vikings rookies (23)||Vikings roster moves (30)|
|Vikings special teams (34)||Vikings training camp (124)|
|Injury report (304)||Off the field (122)|
|On the road (73)||Quarterbacks (281)|
|Rookies (72)||Roster moves (15)|
|The draft (283)||Trade talk (2)|
|Vikings players (695)||Adrian Peterson (825)|
|Anthony Herrera (161)||Antoine Winfield (407)|
|Ben Leber (97)||Bernard Berrian (213)|
|Bobby Wade (16)||Brad Childress (634)|
|Brett Favre (802)||Brian Robison (148)|
|Bryant McKinnie (106)||Cedric Griffin (194)|
|Chad Greenway (174)||Chester Taylor (79)|
|Chris Kluwe (113)||Darrell Bevell (109)|
|E.J. Henderson (182)||Heath Farwell (49)|
|Jared Allen (361)||John Sullivan (188)|
|Kevin Williams (188)||Leslie Frazier (800)|
|Madieu Williams (78)||Pat Williams (150)|
|Percy Harvin (665)||Phil Loadholt (145)|
|Ray Edwards (172)||Ryan Longwell (145)|
|Sage Rosenfels (102)||Sidney Rice (271)|
|Steve Hutchinson (188)||Tarvaris Jackson (169)|
|Tyrell Johnson (151)||Visanthe Shiancoe (216)|
|Brad Childress (638)||Darrell Bevell (110)|
|Leslie Frazier (805)||Lynx (1)|