This just in: the quarterback position is fairly important in today’s NFL. The Vikings are apparently well-situated with Teddy Bridgewater as the starter, but they would also be wise to retain his backup, Matt Cassel, who has one year remaining on his contract.
You’ll remember it was Cassel, not Bridgewater, who opened the 2014 season under center as the Vikings’ starter. However, he broke three bones in his foot during the Week 3 game against the New Orleans Saints and needed season-ending surgery to repair the damage.
Enter Teddy. The rest, as they say, is Vikings history.
Cassel is set to earn a $500,000 roster bonus on March 17 and a $4.15 million base salary in 2015. His salary cap hit will be $4.75 million. That’s a reasonable bargain for a starter in today’s NFL, but it’s kind of pricy for a backup. Thus, there has been speculation that the Vikings might consider letting Cassel go and using that money elsewhere.
I firmly believe that would be a mistake.
Ask any Vikings fan and they will tell you they fervently hope Cassel never plays another regular-season down with the Vikings. Nothing against Matt. By all accounts he is a tremendous guy, and he showed last year that he can still be a serviceable NFL quarterback. It’s just that Bridgewater is the new toast of the town in Vikings nation. However, if (God forbid) something were to happen to Bridgewater… then what?
Last year, the backup plan after Cassel was placed on IR was Christian Ponder; however, Ponder is going to jump into unrestricted free agency in about two weeks. Cassel is the only other quarterback on the Vikings’ active roster. For the record, they also have Pat Devlin stashed on the practice squad. That’s it, folks.
I think all Vikings fans would sleep a little better at night knowing Cassel is the backup plan to Bridgewater. The alternatives are alarming.
Case in point, free agency. Ponder will arguably be one of the top-five quarterbacks on the free agent market. Think about that for a second. That should tell you all you really need to know about what’s going to be available in terms of signal callers come March 10. Heck, if Cassel were released by the Vikings, he’d be snapped up immediately.
The other “top quarterbacks” set to hit free agency include Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker, Michael Vick, Ryan Mallett, Matt Flynn, Colt McCoy, Brian Hoyer and, oh yeah, Tarvaris Jackson. You remember him, right? He served as the Seahawks’ designated coin-flip winner in 2014. He was good at it, too.
Josh McCown, who was let go by the Buccaneers two weeks ago, is a free agent right now and is currently being courted by several NFL teams, including the Bills and new-look Browns. When the likes of McCown and Sanchez represent the cream of the quarterback crop in free agency, you know it’s a thin group.
Tell me, would you feel better with Cassel, who already knows the Norv Turner offense inside and out, holding the clipboard on the Vikings’ sideline next season -- or does a free agent like Jimmy Clausen or Blaine Gabbert do something for you?
Furthermore, this year’s quarterback draft class is shaping up as the thinnest since 2011 when Cam Newton went No. 1, followed by 2015 free agents Locker at eight, Gabbert at 10 and Ponder at 12. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be top-10 picks but there might not be another quarterback selected until the second or third round when the likes of Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley come off the board. Besides, the Vikings aren’t going to spend a high pick on a quarterback two years in a row – who do you think they are, the Browns?
In short, it’s not a good offseason to need a quarterback. And remember, the Vikings need to find a third quarterback somewhere, too.
If I’m Rick Spielman, I gladly keep Cassel in the fold. Bridgewater and Cassel together will only cost a little over $6 million against the cap next season – or roughly a third of what Matthew Stafford alone will cost the Lions.
Cassel represents the best the Vikings can hope for in terms of a Bridgewater insurance policy for 2015.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell