Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jay Cutler. How's that one sound, Vikings fans?
Many assume that the Vikings will part ways with Christian Ponder at the end of the season, setting him free to latch on with another team. In addition, Josh Freeman will become a free agent in March and I don't see them bringing him back. Nor do I think Freeman would want to return without at least seriously testing the market to see if anyone is interested in his Knoblauch-esque passing skills. As for Matt Cassel, he showed again on Sunday what even an adequate quarterback can do for a team in today's NFL. He truly gives the Vikings their best chance to win right now, but he's not a viable long-term solution.
So who plays quarterback for the Vikings in 2014 and beyond? To this point all of the discussion surrounding who the Vikings' next quarterback might be has centered on the NFL Draft.
The 2014 NFL Draft is going to have plenty of intriguing quarterback talents available even without Marcus Mariota, who decided recently to return to Oregon. Teddy Bridgewater remains the favorite to be the first quarterback off the board, but from where the Vikings currently sit at fourth in the draft order they won't have a shot to take him. Johnny Manziel will very likely be available anywhere in the top-10 of the first round and I would love to see him in purple. However, I dare say that's not a sentiment shared by too many Vikings fans and I have no idea where he resides on the Vikings' war room draft board.
The first few rounds of the draft will also include guys like Brett Hundley from UCLA, Blake Bortles out of Central Florida and A.J. McCarron from Alabama. All are candidates to be drafted by the Vikings.
Drafting a franchise quarterback early remains the preferred method of obtaining one. However, it's obviously not the only way.
Trades are sometimes an option, but rarely will a team deal a quarterback who has shown any inkling of being a franchise-level talent. Forget about the short-lived "Ben Roethlisberger wants to be traded" rumors. That's not happening. The only other way to solve a quarterback vacancy is via free agency, and that at least has to be considered by the Vikings' front office if they don't like Manziel or fail to fall in love with any of the other draft-eligible quarterbacks.
Peering ahead to the quarterbacks that could be available in free agency come March, one name stands alone above the rest: Jay Cutler.
Six weeks ago I would have told you that there's no way the Bears would let Cutler walk. They'll franchise him or sign him to a new, lucrative deal I figured. Now I'm not so sure. Since Cutler has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain, his backup Josh McCown has caught fire in Marc Trestman's system. Having receivers like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery helps, as does playing against defenses like the Cowboys and Vikings. However, McCown has obliterated expectations, completing 67 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns against just one interception. He's thrown for 1,055 yards in his last three games alone. He's one of the hottest quarterbacks this side of Peyton Manning and the Bears can't help but wonder whether it would be more prudent to sign McCown at a fraction of the cost it would take to retain Cutler.
Yes, Trestman has re-iterated that Cutler will be the Bears' starter again once he's healthy… whenever that might be. What happens after the season, though? I have to think there's at least a chance now the Bears will allow Cutler to enter free agency. If that happens there will be a long line of suitors, and the Vikings should at least consider kicking the proverbial tires.
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest Cutler fan in the world. Putting aside whatever reservations one might have about his questionable body language, attitude, ego and durability, the guy's got a heckuva arm and knows how to play the game. He would provide the Vikings with at least a better than average solution at the quarterback position for the next three or four seasons. He'd also get a lot more out of Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph -- which might be enough to get this team back to the playoffs. It would also free up a first-round pick for some badly needed help on defense.
I'm still firmly on the Manziel bandwagon, but the thought of Cutler in purple is, at the very least, intriguing. And it's looking more and more like at least a possible scenario with each new gem McCown turns in.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
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