Pennington Trade Could Create More Questions

The trade market for a quarterback looks more appealing than the free-agent market this offseason, but one of the players rumored to be available, Chad Pennington, brings with him as many questions as he does answers.

What do Jeff Garcia and Chad Pennington have in common?

Although neither of them of have ever played for the Minnesota Vikings, both have been a target of fan debate in the past two offseasons as experienced quarterbacks who might be able to upgrade the Vikings' quarterback situation. Neither of them is considered to have particularly strong arms, yet both of them are said to be good fits with a West Coast offense. There's more. They are the only two quarterbacks among the top 15-rated passers in the NFL who averaged less than 200 yards per game in the 2007 regular season.

Garcia was mentioned last offseason when he was available. The Vikings showed little interest, choosing instead to hitch at least their 2007 season to second-year pro Tarvaris Jackson. Like Pennington and Garcia, Jackson also averaged less than 200 yards per game with 159.2. Pennington averaged 196.1 and Garcia, who ended up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, averaged 187.7 during the regular season.

While Garcia is set for 2008 with the Bucs, Pennington is periodically mentioned as a potential trade target for the Vikings because head coach Brad Childress has left the door open to entertain trade and free-agent options at the quarterback position.

There is at least one problem with the Pennington situation. He is under contract with the New York Jets for at least three more years. And Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum indicated that Pennington would be in line to compete for the starting job in New York with Kellen Clemens.

"I expect Chad to be back," Tannenbaum said during his postseason talk with the media, "and the best players will play. And that's not limited to the quarterback position."

Pennington was benched eight games into the Jets' 4-12 season, but Clemens failed to give the offense much of a jump-start and finished with five touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. While he was hampered by an inconsistent offensive line, Clemens just didn't show enough to make it clear that he is the Jets' quarterback of the future.

Pennington has made quite clear his desire to be a starter, but he is under contract with the Jets through the 2010 season with an option for 2011.

"I would think that's positive from his standpoint," Tannenbaum said of Pennington wanting to start. "You want competitive guys and guys that want to be the best, and that brings out the best in everybody. ... At the end of the day, (head coach Eric Mangini) will decide who plays and who doesn't play, but it will be based on who gives us the best chance" to win.

When asked if the team would consider trading Pennington, Tannenbaum said, "We'll listen to anything, but I expect Chad to be back."

While other quarterbacks that are talked about as possibilities for the Vikings on the trade market – like Cleveland's Derek Anderson or Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb – would have to be considered the starters if they came to Minnesota, the same might not be true for Pennington. If the Vikings were to trade for him, Pennington might be in the same situation he is in with New York – a competition against a 2006 second-round draft pick for the starting spot.

Pennington was the 15th-rated passer among NFL quarterbacks with an 86.1 rating while completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,765 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Jackson was the 28th-rated passer with a 70.8 rating while completing 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,911 yards, nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

And then there is the part about Pennington's salary. While both the Jets and Vikings are believed to be more than $25 million under the salary cap, no NFL team wants to spend huge money for a player who might be a backup.

Jackson's cap number in 2008 is $650,000. Pennington is more than 10 times that at $7.8 million. However, the Vikings would only be on the hook for his $4.8 million base salary if they were to trade for him. The Jets would have to absorb his signing bonus, putting them in a worse cap position for 2008 if they were to trade him but in a better position in future years.

In 2009 and 2010, Pennington's cap numbers are $8.7 million and $6.6 million, respectively, with base salaries of $5.7 million and $2.3 million – meaning the Jets might be better off keeping him for one more season to absorb some of his bonus money over a longer prorated period rather than accelerating three seasons of bonus money into one when they trade him.

From the Vikings' perspective, the money probably wouldn't be an issue, but a trade for Pennington might only create a quarterback controversy without a sure-fire starter.

Syndicated content contributed to this article.

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