Mark LeVoir, the former Parade High School All-America who played tight end at Eden Prairie, was an offensive tackle for Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel when the two played together for the New England Patriots in 2008.
That was the year Cassel finally got a chance to start after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered a severe injury to his left knee in the first game of the season.
LeVoir got a firsthand look at how well Cassel can play when given the chance to be a full-time starter. Cassel threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in 16 games. LeVoir played in all 16 games that season, starting twice at right tackle.
So LeVoir has no doubt Cassel can be a tremendous starting quarterback for the Vikings, given the chance.
“Oh, I think he’s great,” LeVoir said. “I think there are other factors, [but] I think he can be a great quarterback for the Vikings. I think he just needs to get an opportunity, which he has been getting, and if he were to get all the reps and whatever, I think he would be a great quarterback for them.”
Cassel has reached the playoffs once as a starter, in 2010 with Kansas City. Cassel threw for 3,116 yards that year with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 93.0 quarterback rating — still his highest mark as a quarterback.
But LeVoir also pointed out that Cassel and the Patriots put together the best season in NFL history for a team that didn’t reach the postseason.
“I think we finished 11-5 [in 2008] and we were the first team in NFL history not to go to the playoffs with that good of a record,” he said.
Following that season, with Brady coming back, the Patriots gave Cassel the franchise tag.
“And then Scott Pioli left, who was the general manager here and became the GM down at Kansas City,” LeVoir said. “Then we traded [Cassel] to Kansas City.”
That franchise tag gave Cassel a one-year, $14 million contract, still the highest single-season contract for an offensive player in NFL history.
LeVoir still sees the same qualities in Cassel that made him such a hot commodity in 2009.
“Obviously he’s a good quarterback and he has a different supporting cast around him than he did out here, but he’s proved himself and he went to the Pro Bowl with Kansas City,” LeVoir said. “I mean I like Matt — I’d love to block for him again — but my days of playing are over. He’s a great guy.”
Commenting on all the good press he got after his passing performance in beating the Eagles 48-30 (26-for-35 for 382 yards, two touchdowns and one interception), Cassel said: “I think one thing in this profession is from one week to the next, anybody could be out there playing. The fact is if you’re good enough to be on this roster and on this team, then you’re good enough to play in the National Football League.”
Contract a question
Cassel has a contract with the Vikings for next year but he can opt out of the deal up to five days after the Super Bowl and become a free agent. His contract for next season calls for $3.7 million.
The Vikings have not made any effort to extend Cassel’s contract, though they certainly will talk to him at the end of the season.
And regardless of what you might hear, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier have not given up on Christian Ponder.