Key matchup: Last quarterback dance?

The Vikings have a difficult decision to ponder at quarterback, making their play on Friday night critical to their future. It will also be the most intriguing storyline during the preseason finale.


When we do our weekly matchup to watch, the focus is almost always on the stars of both the Vikings and their opponent for that game. However, with there still being confusion as to how the Vikings quarterback roster will shake out Saturday afternoon, the respective play of Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and John David Booty will be this week's matchup to watch when the Vikings meet the Dallas Cowboys Friday.

It seemed as though the QB roster was set when training camp opened. Brett Favre had announced that he was staying retired, Jackson and Rosenfels were preparing for an open training camp competition for the starting job and Booty seemed entrenched as the No. 3 guy. But, as Hurricane Brett rolled through the Twin Cities, the pecking order took a huge turn. With it unlikely that the Vikings will keep four quarterbacks on the active roster, there are many questions heading into the Dallas game, primarily that, if they only keep three, who stays and who goes?

Rosenfels seems like the most logical candidate to stay. The Vikings traded a 2009 fourth-round draft pick to Houston in February to acquire Rosenfels – promptly signing him to a two-year extension beyond the remaining year on his contract. He was given signing bonus money and the investment would seem to indicate that he is here for the long haul. That being said, for other teams with questions at quarterback – be they starter or backup questions – Rosenfels likely has the most value in trade, as a nine-year veteran with experience in different systems.

Jackson seems to be the player most analysts are focusing on. Entering his fourth season, his free-agent status depends on whether the owners and players association can reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Jackson is a key player in this triangle. If a new CBA is reach before free agency next year, Jackson would become an unrestricted free agent. If the 2010 season is uncapped, one of the caveats that ownership got was that unrestricted free agency wouldn't begin after the players' fourth year, but after the sixth season. Thus, Jackson would be a restricted free agent, which would give the Vikings the option of matching any offer he could receive from another team. The Vikings' personal philosophy may come into play. If they believe Jackson will be an unrestricted free agent in six months, it would make sense to move him and get some draft value in return. If they believe 2010 would be uncapped, Jackson would still have value – since most believe this year will be a one-and-done for Favre. There has been a lot of talk that the Vikings will be showcasing Jackson to other teams in Friday's game.

Booty is an unenviable position. He has already given up his number because Favre arrived. Soon, it may be his spot on the roster. Already the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback on the 53-man roster last year, he never saw game action. That is important because, as such, the Vikings could potentially release Booty, hope he clears waivers and put him on the practice squad. However, after getting burned trying the same thing with Tyler Thigpen, there are little in the way of guarantees that the 31 other teams would all pass on him. It's possible, but may not be probable. Booty has seen very limited playing time since Favre's arrival, which may be intentional – giving scouts and other teams less film to see on Booty to take the chance of releasing a No. 3 QB familiar with their own system for someone from the outside – remember that if a team makes a waiver claim, that player must go on the 53-man roster and can't be put on their practice squad.

With most of the starters for both teams are expected to see cameo action at best Friday, and the game with the Cowboys will be the last chance for the 45 or so players to be cut by both teams to make a final impression. It will also most likely be the last game for one of these Vikings quarterbacks, making this the matchup to watch.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this hot topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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