Pennington Most Logical QB Option?

The big-name quarterbacks that will generate speculation during the offseason will be Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Cleveland's Derek Anderson. But both are likely going to require high draft picks, which makes Minnesota an unlikely destination for either.

Jets’ Pennington might be the right fit

The two big-name quarterbacks that will be talked about this offseason are going to be Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb and Cleveland’s Derek Anderson.

Many fans might see either as an instant fix to the Vikings situation at quarterback, but it is unlikely they will be players for either player.

Tarvaris Jackson has shown enough to merit a legitimate opportunity to continue his development.  The right fit is an experienced veteran who could at least accept the role behind Jackson if the soon-to-be third-year pro continues to progress.

McNabb is not interested in that role just yet, and the Eagles will be asking for at least a first-round pick as compensation.  It just doesn’t make sense for the Vikings to abandon their long-range commitment to building the team for a short-term fix that holds no true guarantees to succeed.

Likewise, the Browns will tender Anderson at a level that also requires at least one first-round pick as compensation.  A play for Anderson represents giving up on Jackson.  Anderson was indeed terrific this season, but so was a tall left-hander named Scott Mitchell once when the Detroit Lions coughed up big money for what could prove to be flash-in-the-pan success.

The frontrunner could be the Jets’ Chad Pennington, who at best would compete for the starting job in training camp with the Jets next season with Kellen Clemens.  In that scenario, Clemens will be given every chance to win the job.

Pennington still wants to be a starter, too.  But the writing on the wall in New York seems to be pointing toward Clemens.  And Pennington’s salary might not enable him to stay in the mix if he’s going to be a backup.

Pennington, 31, is currently signed through 2010 with the Jets.  He is scheduled to earn $4.8 million in 2008 and count $7.8 million on the salary cap, which isn't bad for a starter, but not for a backup.  So unless he’s willing to re-work his contract, he could become trade bait or a salary-cap casualty.

The Jets might be willing to part with Pennington for a second- or third-round pick.  The Vikings enter the 2008 draft with an extra No. 3, which gives them some flexibility there.

For his part, Pennington has taken the high road.  “I don't have a lot of control over what is going on right now,” Pennington said in this New Jersey Ledger story.  “I'm under contract and that is where we stand.”

Pennington said he wouldn't demand a trade – “I don't believe in doing business that way,” he said – or hold out in an effort to force one.

“I've never considered that,” Pennington said.  “You guys understand that's not my personality.  I understand the business of it, but when it comes between those white lines, I have always believed in the team concept.”

Pennington is not the pure raw physical specimen that Jackson is, but he’s a very smart, experienced, savvy veteran who could learn and run the Brad Childress version of the West Coast Offense quickly.

If Jackson struggled, Pennington could come in and lead the team for more than just a game or two.  If Jackson continues to grow, Pennington could be a terrific mentor, but also an excellent relief pitcher off the bench in case of injury, and an upgrade over the depth the Vikings have at the position currently.

Ferguson wants to stay

Another good fit for the West Coast Offense was early season acquisition Robert Ferguson, who is on the record as wanting to come back.

Ferguson isn’t the vertical threat he once was, but he’s very comfortable in the WCO and has the run-after-the-catch attributes you look for in the offense.  He’s also a fine downfield blocker, which was evident numerous times this season.

Ferguson isn’t likely going to see a big payday elsewhere, so it is indeed likely that he will be re-signed by the Vikings.

Extra Points

The other name you’ll hear about as an unrestricted free agent at wide receiver this offseason will be Bernard Berrian of the Chicago Bears.  Berrian is well-positioned to get this year’s Kevin Curtis-type contract offer from someone, maybe the Vikings.

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