You can add a backup quarterback to the list of the Vikings’ offseason needs.
On his way to meet with Adrian Peterson at the running back’s Houston home, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman showed Wednesday morning that he could multitask by agreeing to trade veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to the Buffalo Bills.
The Vikings will receive draft picks and create more salary cap space before the start of free agency. Cassel, meanwhile, will get another opportunity to start in the NFL.
The trade will not be official until the new league year opens Tuesday, but the Bills will send two undisclosed draft picks to the Vikings in the deal. Fox Sports reported that Minnesota will receive a 2015 fifth-round pick and a 2016 seventh-round pick from Buffalo. The Vikings will send Cassel and a 2015 sixth-rounder to the Bills.
This time a year ago, the Vikings re-signed Cassel to a two-year contract three days before the start of free agency so the veteran could be the “bridge” to their quarterback of the future. That quarterback ended up being first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater.
Cassel held off Bridgewater in training camp and the preseason to open the season as coach Mike Zimmer’s starting quarterback. But Cassel fractured his left foot in Week 3 and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Forced into the lineup a little earlier than planned, Bridgewater made Cassel expendable with a promising rookie season.
Spielman had positive things to say about Cassel when asked about the quarterback at the scouting combine two weeks ago. But while acknowledging that finances could play into whether Cassel would be back in 2015, Spielman was noncommittal about Cassel’s status.
“Matt’s done a great job,” Spielman said. “He came in and won some games when he had to play and he’s a great locker room guy and Matt adds a lot of value to us.”
Cassel would have been one of the league’s highest-paid backup quarterbacks in 2015. By trading him next week, the Vikings will clear his $4.75 million salary from the books. As it stands now, the team will enter free agency with about $25 million in cap space.
Cassel appeared in 12 games, nine of them starts, over two seasons with the Vikings. He threw 14 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while compiling a 4-5 record.
Cassel will get a chance to be a starter again for the Bills, who in the past two days brokered deals for Cassel and former Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
The Vikings will look to find a new backup quarterback in free agency and would like to add a developmental third quarterback in the draft or through the signing of a rookie free agent.
Christian Ponder, the Vikings’ 2011 first-round pick, is scheduled to hit free agency, but neither Ponder nor the team seem to be interested in him returning as the backup.
Overall, this is not considered to be a strong group of free-agent quarterbacks.
Josh McCown, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February, already picked the Cleveland Browns over the Bills, leading Buffalo to inquire about Cassel.
Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett will be among the free agents available, along with former Vikings quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Shaun Hill.
Hoyer and Hill both have previous ties to Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, as do Jason Campbell and Charlie Whitehurst. So they likely will be on the Vikings’ radar as the team looks to find a cheaper but still reliable quarterback to back up Bridgewater.