Almost as much fun is NFL speculation season, which seems to quiet down only when there are actual games to watch and six days of scrutiny in between each contest. With the draft just being put in the rear-view mirror, the release of Favre came just at the right time to spark conversation locally and nationally about a potential return for him to the football field.
"Sign him!" shout the posts on the Vikings' message boards. A few distant dissenters react, saying he's over the hill or the Vikings could never stoop so low as to sign the guy the Metrodome crowd loved to hate for more than a decade. The debate is on: To sign or not to sign?
But beyond the emotional reaction of the faithful are the real issues. Here they are, as I see them:
Right now, his agent, Bus Cook, says no. "He's retired, he doesn't have any desire to come back, and that's the way it is with Brett," Cook told ESPN's Chris Mortenson. "He's mowing his grass. He's working on his farm. He enjoys that stuff."
But, with the fire for competition that we've witnessed out of Favre since he was a glimmer in Ron Wolf's eye, do we really believe he won't want to chuck the tractor aside for at least one more autumn harvest season? I don't. Whether he wants to stay retired now or not may be irrelevant. It's what happens before the start of training camp that matters most when it comes to his part of the decision-making.
Favre's initial statement on the matter said, "At this time, I am retired and have no intention of returning to football." That was Tuesday. By happy hour Thursday, he might have no intention of staying on the farm. That is just the way it seems to work in Favreland.
While his outright release from the New York Jets would allow him to play in NFL terms, the bigger question might be whether or not his shoulder would allow him to return to full strength. At one point, it appeared that surgery, or even multiple surgeries, would be needed to put Humpty back together again. However, at the end of the season, ESPN's Ed Werder reported that it was a torn biceps tendon with some calcification (happens to all the athletic dinosaurs, doesn't it?). The essence of that report was that Favre might just need arthroscopic surgery, and maybe no surgery at all – it's never clear-cut with him, is it? – to play in 2009 if he desired.
According to a medical source familiar with that type of injury, Favre could likely play without surgery but his overhand throwing motion might be limited. Non-athletes often function fine without surgery some time after a tear in the AC joint, the source said.
So it appears Favre could play if he wanted to and if he could find a team.
All indications are that the Vikings are ready and willing to go into training camp with Sage Rosenfels battling Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. Head coach Brad Childress believes that Jackson showed improvement in his game when he was got another chance at the end of the season (despite poor showings against the Giants and Eagles to end the season and playoff bid, respectively). And the addition of Rosenfels gives Jackson legitimate competition for the job. Their contractual commitment to Rosenfels in the form of an extension should have him in purple through 2011, showing what they think of his possibilities.
Beyond the investment of time and trust in Jackson and Rosenfels, whether warranted or not, the Vikings have a financial investment. With Jackson, that means the final year of his rookie contract, which isn't difficult to swallow. His cap hit is $740,000 this year and you can believe he wants a big year to cash in on his next contract. With Rosenfels, that extension costs the team an average of $3.825 million per season. For this year, the Vikings' investment in their top two quarterback is only a combined $3.2 million against the salary cap.
The team's passing interest in Jay Cutler shows they will always be looking at options, and Cutler would have been a better long-term option than Favre, but one the team felt was too costly in draft-pick compensation and contract dollars. With Favre, there would be no compensation owed to any other NFL team, and the veteran minimum for a player with 10 or more years of experience is only $845,000, a relative pittance if Favre truly wanted to ignore the pay scale for a proven veteran quarterback.
While the previous considerations were all about football and finances, there is another "F" to consider – the fans.
Year One of the Childress regime was downright depressing as he remodeled the roster and turned a 9-7 team into a 6-10 team in his first season. Year Two provided excitement with the arrival of Adrian Peterson to inject a one-dimensional level of explosiveness into Childress' so-called "kick ass offense." Last year was a playoff tease of what could be something much bigger building at Winter Park.
Going into the draft, the opening-day concerns were at right tackle and wide receiver. With Percy Harvin hoping to be to the passing game what Peterson is to the running game, receiver would appear to be on an explosive uptick. By drafting Phil Loadholt, the team might have taken care of their needs at right tackle.
There is little question that the acquisition of Harvin injected new hope for a fan base that was once accustomed to Moss exploding onto the rookie scene 11 years ago. The Wilf ownership group could decide to make one last splash for the upcoming season and make a push for Favre.
Something has me believing that if they showed him enough love, he could be convinced to park the John Deere and ride horses like Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin into playoff country.