Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talked to quarterback Matt Cassel and says he wants the 31-year-old unrestricted free agent to return to Minnesota. But Zimmer expects Cassel to explore his options.
“He’s got a bunch of pretty girls looking at him right now,” Zimmer said Thursday. “And he wants to explore and see what’s best for him. I don’t blame any of these guys. In free agency, I think that’s why they have the rules is that they get a chance to go see what their market’s worth.”
Free agency begins this weekend, with teams allowed to negotiate with players beginning Saturday. Players cannot be signed until Tuesday, however.
Zimmer felt the team rallied around Cassel late last season, when the Vikings were 2-2 with him starting. He opted out of his two-year deal in January to become a free agent.
If Cassel doesn’t return, the team will look to add a veteran quarterback in free agency.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wanted Cassel to be the team’s starter in January but tweeted on Wednesday that Michael Vick, an unrestricted free agent, would instantly make the Vikings a playoff team.
“We can’t talk about Michael Vick because of tampering stuff,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in an ESPN radio interview, when asked if he felt signing Vick would cause overwhelming media attention.
“In general, we’re always going to look at that, we went through that when Brett Favre was here … but we ended up getting to the NFC Championship Game. A lot of it has to do with how your coaches feel about it.”
Spielman said the Vikings will add a young quarterback in the draft and plan to watch at least eight prospects in person as part of their draft evaluations.
“We’ll be able to find a young quarterback in this draft because there’s enough depth,” Spielman said. “But we’re also going to have to look at one in free agency as well.”
Zimmer is a self-proclaimed “fixer.” He likes to accept challenges as a coach when it comes to players who haven’t lived up to their potential.
His latest challenge could be cornerback Chris Cook, if the unrestricted free agent returns to Minnesota. He has underperformed for the Vikings since he was drafted in the second round in 2010.
“He’s a guy that has some ability that I’ve had some luck in the past with getting guys to play good that have ability,” Zimmer said. “So if he comes back here, then I’m going to coach him as hard as I can and see if I can get him to play good.”
Cook tweeted Monday that he spoke with Zimmer and the head coach “told me like it is.”
“If it’s in the cards, I look forward to having him at the helm,” Cook tweeted.
When asked about his impression of Cook from the meeting, Zimmer said:
“I don’t know. My impression is that he probably shouldn’t be tweeting our conversations.”