Vikings general manager Rick Spielman ruled out the possibility of trading Christian Ponder during the draft later this week and shot down speculation that the Vikings are talking about trading for St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford.
All that said, Spielman essentially admitted that the Vikings will select a quarterback at one point in the draft, saying they need to add to the roster with only Matt Cassel and Ponder currently on the depth chart at that position.
Spielman said no team has inquired about trading for Ponder, the team's 2011 first-round pick, adding, "We wouldn't trade Ponder."
He also left little doubt that he would entertain many trade offers for Ponder. Why?
"That would leave us with one quarterback. I would not do that. We're going to need two quarterbacks, or three," Spielman said.
Still, the Vikings weren't among the vast majority of teams with 2011 first-round picks that declined to pick up the fifth-year options on those players. It would have cost the Vikings $9.86 million in salary for Ponder in 2015 if they had done that, but that salary would only be guaranteed for injury, meaning if he was healthy, they could cut him before the 2015 season without taking a hit to their salary cap.
Spielman generally described their rationale for not picking up the option.
"I'll keep it to purely business decisions and we just want to make sure we kept all our options going forward, especially financially going into next year," he said.
But Ponder's career to this point has been lackluster for a first-round pick. He has started 36 regular season games, thrown 38 touchdowns and 34 interceptions for a 77.3 career passer rating.
Even so, Spielman, who was heavily involved in the selection of Ponder, said that will not deter him from taking a quarterback early in the 2014 draft. The Vikings have the No. 8 and No. 40 picks overall on Thursday and Friday.
"You can't be afraid if there is, regardless of position, a guy there that you have strong feelings for, whether it's at 8 or 40 or wherever it is, you take him," Spielman said. "The one thing you cannot be afraid in this job is to take chances or take risks on guys that you feel strongly about. When you don't do that, then I don't know how you get better. To me, you always have to be aggressive. You have to do things that you think are going to help your football club and help you win ballgames on Sunday. You always have to have that approach."
That said, Spielman essentially admitted that, at best, the jury is still out on Ponder.
"I take full responsibility for Christian Ponder, is he a bust or not a bust? I know right now, and traveling with (offensive coordinator Norv Turner) and going to all these things – we went to nine or 10 different quarterback public workouts, plus we did them privately as well, had private meetings with them – all these stars have to line up," Spielman said. "I know how Norv feels about Matt Cassel. I know how Norv feels about Christian Ponder right now at this time and where we think we are with those two and where they are potentially going to be coming up next year as well. Christian is still a very young quarterback and he showed flashes. He just hasn't been as consistent as you want yet."
That has led to plenty of speculation about Ponder's future. At the end of the 2013 season he said he might consider asking for a trade. Now Spielman said he wouldn't entertain trading Ponder.
But the general manager also said he wasn't trying to obtain Bradford.
"I have not had any specific talks with the Rams," Spielman said.
If acquired, Bradford's salary cap hit would mean the Vikings would have to either dump salary or renegotiate more contracts, and neither of those seem likely enough to fit into the team's current salary structure. They have $10.3 million left in cap space but are expected to need about $6 million of that to sign their rookies. Bradford has a $17.6 million cap number in 2014.
All of that quarterback talk leaves what has been the most likely option all along – having Cassel start, with Ponder and a draft pick competing for the backup role.
"I would say that if we covet a quarterback at 8 and let's say the next quarterback we would not touch until the second round, then we're going to sit there and be patient and wait," Spielman said. "… We have quarterbacks lined up I would say throughout the draft in different rounds where we feel comfortable taking them. We only have two, so I know we need to get a third as well."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Spielman rules out Ponder trade, talks QBs
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