VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData and Patrick Donnelly, who has written on a variety of Minnesota sports topics. Mitchell and Donnelly are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: Cassel is the first piece of the offseason puzzle

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: March 7, 2014 - 10:23 PM

A few weeks ago in this space I lobbied the Vikings to bring back Matt Cassel. I did so amidst rumors that the Houston Texans were going to consider signing him once free agency opens next Tuesday. Well, it appears someone over at Winter Park took my eloquent musings to heart. Either that or re-signing Cassel was pretty much the plan all along and I’m trying to take some credit where no credit whatsoever is due. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Anyway, the news broke late Friday that Cassel will be returning to the Vikings on a two-year contract. Jason La Canfora of CBSsports.com – who earlier Friday predicted Cassel would sign with the Texans and the Vikings would sign Josh McCown – was among the first to report Cassel’s new deal with the Vikings, saying it will pay him $10 million over the two years.

There’s no word yet on whether Adrian Peterson thinks the re-signing of Cassel instantly (or intently) makes the Vikings a playoff team. Peterson’s infamous tweet Thursday night in which he pined for Michael Vick while seemingly throwing Christian Ponder under the bus and slamming the door on Cassel, obviously wasn’t enough to derail the negotiations. Funny how quickly that tweet was deleted. I can only imagine how that phone call went with Vikings brass.

As I tweeted, I respectfully agree to disagree with Adrian’s choice in quarterbacks. Vick turns 34 in June, is a turnover machine and an injury waiting to happen. He hasn’t played a full season since 2006 when he was still with the Falcons. Cassel is two years younger than Vick and would have been the best of a middling group of free agent quarterbacks had he been allowed to hit the open market.

Does Cassel instantly make the Vikings a playoff team? Not at all. But he gets them closer than Vick would have. His return is just step one. But it’s an important step one.

Cassel will be penciled in as the Week 1 starter for the Vikings, and in theory he will serve as the bridge to their “quarterback of the future,” whoever that turns out to be. Whether the Cassel-bridge spans half a season or two seasons also remains to be seen. Regardless, having a starting quarterback is a significant piece of the puzzle to have in place. The rest of the roster puzzle will begin to take form next week when free agency opens.

The Vikings have a ton of room under the NFL’s new salary cap – more than enough to make a splashy move or two. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman wisely insists on wanting to build through the draft, but he said that last year too and they opened the wallet wide for Greg Jennings.

Remember, the period between the end of the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft is primetime for smokescreens, deception and flat-out lying by NFL front offices.

In a related note maybe I’m misreading the tea leaves, but Cassel’s return probably increases the likelihood of Ponder being let go. Despite the company line (smokescreen?) to this point of the offseason, I truly can’t imagine the Vikings bringing Ponder back after the way things went down last season.

The Vikings still need another quarterback on the roster – two if Ponder is let go. Therefore, I’d still like to see them draft one of the chosen three quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater) with the eighth overall pick if one falls that far. But having Cassel back in the fold might make that less likely. The Vikings will probably still draft a quarterback, but maybe they’ll wait on one now. Perhaps they’ll trade down out of the eighth spot and accumulate another pick or two (as Spielman said he wants to do) and take a quarterback later in the first or earlier in the second round. Or maybe all that stuff about wanting to get 10 picks in this year’s draft (they have eight now) is just another smokescreen.

Cassel was the first necessary move. Now it’s time for a splashier move in free agency – Michael Johnson? Alterraun Verner? I also can’t help but think offensive coordinator Norv Turner will be calling Darren Sproles, who is being released by the Saints and has perfectly fulfilled the duties of the change-of-pace, pass-catching running back in Turner’s offense before.

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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