The Vikings are searching for a quarterback but leave no doubt that Christian Ponder is No. 1.
INDIANAPOLIS - The Vikings aren't exactly dancing around their offseason wishes at quarterback. Without question, they're looking to heighten the competition. Just not for incumbent starter Christian Ponder.
This weekend at the NFL combine, both coach Leslie Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman expressed interest in potentially searching free agency or the draft for quarterback aid. Just so long as it's perfectly clear to everyone that Ponder is the starter heading into 2013.
Said Frazier: "[That] creates some clarity for our football team as we are giving them direction about where we want to go and what we want to achieve."
Frazier continues to laud the drive and equanimity Ponder showed in aiding the Vikings' four-game winning streak to end the season and told the 25-year-old quarterback to bottle that progress as he heads into the offseason.
But when a severely bruised throwing arm prevented Ponder from playing in the Vikings' first-round playoff loss in Green Bay, the Vikings got a glimpse at just how shaky things can become when backup Joe Webb proved wildly inaccurate and too easily flustered on his way to an 11-for-30, 180-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception night.
So now comes a quest to find someone who can push Webb for the backup's role. And that could mean offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson were intensely dialed in during Sunday's quarterback workouts at the combine.
The Vikings might not draft a quarterback at all but certainly won't waste an early pick. So the pre-draft exploits of such guys as West Virginia's Geno Smith, Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, N.C. State's Mike Glennon and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson are mostly irrelevant.
But it's not impossible that the Vikings would pull the trigger in the later rounds if they found a quarterback they really liked.
"Why wouldn't you look at every position?" Spielman said.
Before the draft arrives, though, the Vikings will first browse the free-agent market and a quarterback shelf that figures to include Derek Anderson, Tyler Thigpen, Rex Grossman and Matt Moore. Spielman said the team has had discussions about the importance of having a veteran around. But for any of those players to work out, they'd have to come accepting a reserve role.
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."
In a quarterback draft class with few sure bets at the top, several intriguing prospects could be available in the mid to later rounds.
Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, for example, continues to impress scouts and draft experts with his acumen. And Oklahoma's Landry Jones has exhibited great productivity as a pocket passer.
Duke's Sean Renfree, unable to throw at the combine as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle, also has the intelligence that will wow GMs. And he was tutored throughout his college career by David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils head coach who worked closely with Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss.
"Coach Cut's a perfectionist with the instinct to tweak quarterbacks not only in terms of decision-making but fundamentals," Renfree said. "He looks at every part of your game. And he does it every day."
As far as the Vikings are concerned, finding a No. 2 quarterback they feel confident in will be a priority. That's not to say Webb won't remain that guy as Frazier and Spielman insist they won't write him off based solely on that one sloppy night in Green Bay. But a push is being made to make certain things won't totally derail if Ponder is lost.
"I still have confidence in Joe," Frazier said. "I just feel like he had a tough situation to go into. I'd like to see him compete with whatever we end up doing, whether it be a veteran guy or we draft a guy. But we definitely need to solidify that backup position so we all go into the season feeling pretty good about whoever has to step in."
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