What Would Anderson Cost?

As the Vikings engage in their personnel meetings this week, we look at the possibilities at quarterback in the trade market. Cleveland's Derek Anderson won't hit free agency without strings attached. We look at his situation, what he might cost and how he compares to Tarvaris Jackson.

For much of the second half of the season, the talk amongst Vikings fans centered around who the quarterback of the future was going to be in Minnesota. Although Tarvaris Jackson led the Vikings to an 8-4 record in his 12 starts in 2007, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, and head coach Brad Childress continued to preach about the effects of turnovers.

Given that Childress didn't shut the door on looking into other possibilities at the quarterback position for 2008, we'll start to examine the trade and free-agent options. In the free-agent market, there might be only one possibility that would be a potential upgrade over Jackson at this point in his career – the Cleveland Browns' Derek Anderson.

The biggest issue in that scenario, however, is that the Browns currently hold the negotiating rights with Anderson. At different points over the last four months, the Browns have discussed using different tender levels on the Pro Bowl alternate who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent on March 3. Cleveland could tender him at a level that would require another team to give the Browns different combinations of first-, second- or third-round picks in order to obtain Anderson.

But the latest news is that the Browns want to simply re-sign him to a long-term deal before he hits the free-agent market on March 3. If not, the team will almost certainly make a tender offer prior to that. Browns general manager Phil Savage told the media this week that he believes Anderson should be a starter. "He deserves a chance to go into the batter's box and swing for the fences next year," Savage told FoxSports.com.

The problem is that the Browns also want to re-sign running back Jamal Lewis and also have 2007 first-round pick Brady Quinn waiting the wings to start at quarterback. Quinn had a solid preseason for the Browns, but Anderson was the unquestioned starter after his performance early in the season.

He ended the year completing 56.5 percent of his passes for 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions for an 82.5 passer rating. Jackson actually completed a higher percentage of passes (58.2), but averaged 77 fewer passing yards per game and had a 70.8 rating.

Of course, comparing Jackson's statistics to others can be a difficult proposition given his receiving targets. While Anderson had receivers like Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr., Jackson had Troy Williamson, Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade.

Still, if the Vikings want to obtain a quarterback who can start ahead of Jackson next year, Anderson has to be considered one of the possibilities, even given the uncertainty of how he might perform with a new offense and a new set of receivers.

While the Browns might have to back up the money truck to keep Anderson as their starter, they got a bargain with him in recent years. His initial contract with the Baltimore Ravens called for only a $49,500 signing bonus. His cap value in 2005 was only $202,941 and the Browns only had to assume a portion of that when they claimed him off waivers from the Ravens.

His salary escalated to $435,000 in 2007, but the Browns likely will have to increase that 10-fold to retain him and get him in the neighborhood of salaries for quarterbacks near his production.

The question for the Vikings regarding Anderson would be many: Do they believe he can have equal of better success in their system with different receivers? Do they want to spend what could turn out to be $6 million a year for a quarterback with one good season in the books and another (2006) that was worse than Jackson's 2007 season in only five games played? And do they want to part with potentially multiple draft picks in the first three rounds of the draft if the Browns tender him accordingly.

By the time March 3 arrives, all those points could be moot. The Browns could sign Anderson to a long-term contract, as they have indicated, and may not be interested in dealing him. Or they could still sign him in hopes of trading him for draft picks or proven talent. Until they make their first real move before free agency starts, it's all speculation.

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