Sunday slant: Choosing proven vs. potential

The Vikings' actions over minicamp weekend appear to speak fairly loudly – Sage Rosenfels could be on his way out and Joe Webb in. Tim Yotter thinks that's the right choice after seeing Webb throwing in camp and Rosenfels' treatment over the last year.

Given the choice between proven and potential, the Vikings appear poised to choose potential. That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from their actions over minicamp.

Sage Rosenfels started out minicamp nine days ago in his usual No. 2 slot behind Tarvaris Jackson. It was a spot Rosenfels occupied much of last summer too as the team waited to see if the Mississippi Magic would waive his wand and transform a struggling passing game into pure efficiency and unbridled excitement.

The Vikings acquired Rosenfels in late February 2009 for a fourth-round draft pick. It appeared to eliminate the need to find a challenger for Jackson's starting job … until Brett Favre was a free agent. But from the time that practices started last offseason, Rosenfels never clearly established himself as the better option over Jackson. As the challenger and the newcomer to the system, that was probably needed.

This offseason, the Vikings had more questions at quarterback. Favre is still expected make his August journey north, but that hardly clears up the lingering question of what the Vikings will do for the future at that position, whether that Favre-less future surprisingly starts this September, next September or September 2012.

Following their trade for Rosenfels, the Vikings extended his contract and made it a three-year, $9 million deal. Last year, he wasn't active for one game but was making far more money than Jackson. If the Vikings aren't going to commit to playing Rosenfels, why commit to paying him? He was worth a shot, but since Brad Childress clearly seems to favor Jackson, it's time to move on without Rosenfels and look to the future with the third quarterback spot.

The timing of that move is what could get sticky. Clearly, the message was sent one week ago when Rosenfels didn't take any snaps in the 7-on-7 or full-team portions of the final minicamp practices after taking only three snaps on Saturday. Rosenfels politely declined to comment while walking off the field on both of those days, but you can bet he was picking up on the same unspoken message as reporters that were watching those practices – his days are probably numbered.

What makes this tougher than the average release is that the Vikings could still need Rosenfels if Favre audibles out of his return. That means they can't comfortably trade or released Rosenfels until they know for sure that Favre is coming back, and that means taking a quarterback to camp that has been in the league longer than any of the other three quarterbacks at minicamp combined and knows he probably won't be with the team a month later.

That's a tough dynamic to navigate, but, as Childress likes to say, "Damn how rough the seas, did you bring the ship in?" Childress' QB vessel is still out at sea. He needs Favre to return and he needs to find the ship that can set sail after Favre permanently moors his career on his Mississippi farm.

That future just might be rookie Joe Webb, and the Vikings can't afford to try to sneak him through waivers and onto the practice squad before the regular season opens if he continues to impress like he did at minicamp. The Vikings learned that lesson with Tyler Thigpen, another late-round draft choice in 2007 that was scooped up by the Kansas City Chiefs before the Vikings could stash him away.

Webb looks better than Thigpen ever did. He looks far better than John David Booty, who entered the league with more acclaim the next year and was the roster victim of Favre last year. In fact, Webb looks every bit as good physically as Tarvaris Jackson ever has, and that's why the time is right for the Vikings to take a chance that maybe they have their quarterback of the future.

Webb has gained the confidence of the coaches when it comes to his physical talents. Those were obvious even to the untrained eye.

He is tall – 6-4. He is built – 220 pounds. He has huge hands – not documented but probably on par with Brett Favre. And he has a big arm – he laid a perfectly thrown 65-yard bomb right into the waiting arms of Jaymar Johnson during minicamp.

But with Webb there is the great unknown when it comes to rookie quarterbacks, whether we're talking about a No. 1 overall choice or a sixth-round draft pick. Detroit appears to have hit it right Matthew Stafford. Oakland flailed helplessly with the selection of JaMarcus Russell. In the latter's case, however, it appears to be about laziness as much as anything. Judging from reports out of Oakland, Russell got big – defensive tackle big – and studied as much as a second-grade boy on summer vacation.

Webb doesn't appear to be either of those, but it's far too early to tell what he could be long-term. Short-term, we do know exactly what he is – a rookie. That means while he has "it" physically, it's impossible to tell if and when he'll "get it" mentally – how long will it take to learn the playbook? After that is second nature, if ever, comes the diagnosis of defenses. And then there is getting on the same page as the receivers with the nuances of the coverages, making checks, communicating adjustments and general leadership.

All of those are unknowns, but there is something that appears very clear from this angle. The Vikings need to find a quarterback of the future, and judging from their lack of commitment to anyone else, Webb holds that possibility as much as anyone.

The Vikings have had the opportunity to extend Tarvaris Jackson's contract beyond the one-year restricted free-agent tender they offered up. They haven't even approached him about that possibility. Rosenfels appears to be kicked to the curb, R.J. Archer might just be a camp body and Ryan Perrilloux was a huge risk the team wasn't willing to take. They also bypassed Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy in the draft.

For now, it appears Webb is the word … unless he proves he isn't in August.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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