Quarterback options wide open for Vikings

The Vikings are going to be busy with first-hand evaluations of the top QB prospects, but they have given themselves flexibility with the re-signing of Matt Cassel.

The signing of Matt Cassel to a two-year contract gives the Minnesota Vikings options, but it locks them into nothing.

Cassel said last week after signing that he expects to start but doesn't expect that duty will be handed to him.

"That's my mentality, absolutely. I go in with the expectation to be the starter and that won't change," Cassel said. "At the same time, you've got to go out there and prove it and compete. There's going to be two other quarterbacks, maybe three other quarterbacks, in here competing as well and that's what it is on every NFL roster."

Cassel was always the Vikings' first option in free agency, despite having the possibility of Josh McCown or Michael Vick (McCown has since re-signed with Tampa Bay and Vick remains on the free agent market). But the Vikings' actions made it obvious where their priorities with quarterback were – they signed Cassel days before he was legally allowed to negotiate with other teams, and they kept in contact with him at various points between the end of the 2013 season and the start of free agency.

"I had talked to Matt after the season. Then once we got our coaching staff in place, I wanted to make sure everybody was comfortable with Matt," general manager Rick Spielman said. "And when we hired Norv, Norv liked Matt a lot. He's going to come in. I think that was a huge piece to this whole thing and it got us started off the right way. So, that gets us going in the right direction."

While Cassel's signing takes the pressure off the Vikings from having to find an "NFL-ready" quarterback in the draft, they almost certainly will select one in the first two days of the draft. They've already started making the rounds and that will continue over the next few days.

Last week, Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner attended the Alabama pro day, where A.J. McCarron worked out after a strong throwing session at the NFL Scouting Combine. On Sunday, they were leaving to attend several more pro days.

On Monday, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater has his pro day. On Wednesday, it is Blake Bortles' turn at Central Florida's pro day. On Thursday, Fresno State's Derek Carr takes his turn.

"There will be rumors that we will be out all over this month at these different quarterbacks that work out and spending a lot of time with these guys; not only what they're doing on the field but doing a lot of these behind the scenes with them in the room, going through their college tape, learning our system, and that'll be down to Coach Zimmer and myself, Norv and (quarterbacks coach) Scott Turner," Spielman said.

It was more than rumors of the Vikings attending the Alabama pro day, and Spielman admitted in February that the Vikings would likely be getting in close to 10 private workouts with the top quarterback prospects.

The most likely scenario, at least during the offseason portion between the draft and preseason, is that Cassel is the starter with a draft pick and Christian Ponder working for position behind him.

"Christian is under contract here. He'll be out here participating when we get out here on April 7," Spielman said, referencing the start of the offseason conditioning program. "I know he's going to get an opportunity to compete as well. My job is trying to get as many guys in here to compete at all the positions and as the coaches work with these guys and see what their abilities are, that'll give us some direction on what we do in the draft and how we proceed forward.

"… Once we get all the bodies in here, the coaches will have everybody compete and I know they'll do a great job putting our best players out there to help us win ballgames."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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