Donovan McNabb will play for the Vikings in 2011.
An announcement could be made as late as Friday, but ESPN reported Wednesday night the deal would be official on Thursday. An NFL source confirmed the deal. That happened after McNabb signed off on a trade that will send him from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for what is expected to be a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2013.
The Vikings and Redskins worked out the trade on Tuesday and were waiting on McNabb’s approval. The five-year, $78 million contract extension McNabb signed last November will be torn up and he will receive a much-less lucrative, short-term contract from the Vikings.
There also reportedly was another hang up because the McNabb camp was concerned about reports the Vikings had pursued free-agent quarterback Tyler Thigpen and it rubbed them the wrong way that the Vikings insisted McNabb reduce his contract terms by a substantial amount.
McNabb, who will turn 35 on Nov. 25, will arrive in Minnesota after a miserable one-season stint with the Redskins in which he threw a career-worst 15 interceptions and had 14 touchdown passes and a 77.1 passer rating in 13 games. That included a 17-13 loss to the Vikings on Nov. 28 in Leslie Frazier’s first game as interim coach.
The Vikings hope will be that McNabb can serve as a short-term bridge so Christian Ponder will have time to learn and develop as his backup. Ponder was the 12th pick in the April draft and is the Vikings’ quarterback of the future. One would think that future isn’t too far away, but the fact that Ponder missed the entire offseason program because of the NFL lockout means it would be a lot to ask him to step in.
The Vikings’ focus on McNabb appeared to intensify Tuesday night when Thigpen agreed to a three-year deal with Buffalo. The Vikings had serious interest in bringing in Thigpen as their veteran quarterback after he had spent time in Miami. The Vikings were familiar with Thigpen, having selected him in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.
The team lost him to Kansas City on waivers that summer when they tried to sneak him through.
McNabb spent 11 seasons in Philadelphia, going to six Pro Bowls and leading the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl, before being dealt to the Redskins in April 2010 for two draft picks.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 draft, McNabb left the Eagles as the franchise leader in passing yards (32,873), completions (2,801), attempts (4,746), completion percentage (59.0) and touchdown passes (216). He also rushed for 3,249 yards and 28 touchdowns.
But McNabb was benched twice last season by Redskins coach Mike Shanahan as Washington finished 6-10. It hasn’t been a secret that the Redskins had no intention of bringing back McNabb, and the expectation was that he would be released.
McNabb is due a $10 million bonus next month and his current 2011 deal calls for a salary for as much as $14.8 million.
What’s interesting is that when Brad Childress coached the Vikings, there always was an expectation that McNabb would wind up in Minnesota. Childress had been McNabb’s quarterbacks coach when he entered the league and then became his offensive coordinator.
But Frazier also has a relationship with McNabb, having been on the Eagles defensive staff from 1999 to 2002.
McNabb will be immediately eligible to arrive at Winter Park, but because his contract will be torn up and restructured he will not be able to practice with the Vikings until Aug. 4. That is the day the NFL Players Association will be recertified as a union.
McNabb’s presence on the Vikings roster will continue the team’s string of bringing in veteran quarterbacks. Under Childress, who took over in 2006, the Vikings employed Brad Johnson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Gus Frerotte and Brett Favre.
Favre played the past two seasons, leading the Vikings to the NFC title game in 2009 before struggling last season as the Vikings went 6-10.