Contract situation: Josh Freeman is in the final year of his rookie contract with Tampa Bay, which took him with the 17th pick in 2009. The Bucs owed Freeman $8.4 million this season. After he was released, the Vikings signed him for the final 12 weeks and will pay him slightly more than $2 million, so Freeman will collect more than $6 million from the Bucs while he is with the Vikings. Freeman is a free agent after this season, but if he remains on the Vikings roster through Week 17, they will have exclusive negotiating rights with him until the free agency “negotiating window” begins March 8.
This season: Freeman played three games for the Bucs, posting a 59.3 passer rating, before they cut him. He played one game for the Vikings, completing only 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards in a loss to the Giants. He reported with a concussion the following day, and hasn’t played since. The Vikings blamed “poor mechanics” for his abysmal 43 percent completion rate this season. His career rate, before this season, was close to 60.
Contract situation: Christian Ponder, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, signed a four-year contract for $10.15 million that is fully guaranteed. His signing bonus of $5.8 million is paid out evenly over the four years. In 2013, his base salary is $1.3 million and the bonus is worth close to $1.5 million. Next season, his salary is $1.76 million with another bonus of nearly $1.5 million. If the Vikings cut him following this season, they would be on the hook for that money and a $3.2 million salary cap hit.
This season: Following a strong finish in 2012, the Vikings hoped Ponder would be consistently good this season. He started nine games and has a 77.9 passer rating, 33rd best in the NFL. The Vikings are 2-6-1 in games Ponder started; in both of those victories, he was injured and replaced by Matt Cassel.
Contract situation: Matt Cassel signed as a free agent with the Vikings in March. His two-year contract is worth $7.4 million — $3.7 million each season. Cassel can opt out of the contract following this season. The Vikings would owe him a $500,000 roster bonus (which is part of his 2014 salary) if he is still on the team a week after the official league season begins March 11.
This season: Cassel started Week 4 against Pittsburgh when Ponder was injured and led the Vikings to their first victory. Freeman was signed the following (bye) week, and Cassel struggled in a loss to Carolina. He returned to backup status, replacing Ponder in three games, twice because of injury. Week 13, he beat Chicago after replacing an injured Ponder in the second half, and claimed the starting job with a strong performance in a loss at Baltimore the following week. In Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia, he had the best performance by a Vikings QB this season — 26-for-35 for 382 yards and two TDs. Cassel’s passer rating of 90.7 is 13th in the NFL.