How to view Matt Cassel's arrival
March, 14, 2013
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
That didn't take long. Hours after the Kansas City Chiefs released quarterback Matt Cassel, the Minnesota Vikings scooped him up. We're not yet sure of the financials, but obviously the Vikings quickly met Cassel's price in the shrinking market of available veteran quarterbacks.
The first thing many of you are asking is whether Cassel will be given a chance to beat out starter Christian Ponder, who struggled during parts of the 2012 season but finished strongly. The Vikings have repeatedly denied any plans to stage a training camp competition. Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Cassel is expected to get a chance to win the job.
Here's how I would put it: Cassel has 48 career starts and led the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010. He struggled the past two years and committed 19 turnovers in nine games in 2012. But he is a good enough player, with enough pedigree and experience, that Ponder would be vulnerable if he regresses or otherwise struggles early in the 2013 season.
That wasn't the case last season with fellow youngster Joe Webb in the No. 2 role, and here is how coach Leslie Frazier put his expectation for the position while speaking to reporters last month:
Dak Dillon/US PRESSWIREQuarterback Matt Cassel has 48 career starts and led the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010.
"We really like the progress that Christian has made for us, Christian Ponder, and we expect in his third season he's going to take another jump, and part of that will be what happens this offseason. So, we're not at a point where we're looking for a quarterback to come in and move Christian at all. We expect him just to keep getting better. So, it’s a little bit different for us at the quarterback position than maybe some of those teams you mentioned. We feel like we have our guy in place. We just want to see him keep improving."
At the very least, I think we can all agree that the Vikings are in better shape with a 31-year-old backup (in May) who has 48 career starts on his résumé than Webb, an athletically gifted but still raw passer who bombed in a surprise start against the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 playoffs. Frazier said last month that Webb would compete with whatever veteran the team brought in for the No. 2 job, but I don't envision a scenario where Webb beats out Cassel in training camp.
So the next question becomes: What will the Vikings do with Webb? It wouldn't make much sense to have him collect dust as a No. 3 quarterback, given his athletic skills. Is this the offseason the Vikings commit to developing him as a multipositional player?
Here's what Frazier said about that possibility last month:
"If we got to the point where we felt that there was somebody that beat Joe out, you've go to do whatever you've got to do to make your team better. If we felt like that was the best thing for Joe and the best thing for the team, then you consider it. That would be saying that you found someone that is better than Joe."
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest the Vikings have found someone better than Joe. We'll see soon enough whether that sparks a long-awaited experiment. But have they found someone better than Ponder? Based on what we know about Cassel's recent play, the Vikings had better hope not.