Sunday Slant: Vikings face a dicey QB future

The future of the Vikings' quarterback position is in serious doubt. While many wonder about the short-term future with Brett Favre's uncertain status, the contract status of the others can't be ignored. We take a look at what is in store.

Brett Favre spoke publicly Thursday for the first time in a long time, but he did little to provide any more clarity on his future with the Vikings. The 40-year-old quarterback said he still doesn't know if he'll return to the NFL for the 2010 season, which would be his 20th in the league.

He knows the Vikings want to have a decision from him soon, but …

"Hell, I want to know. But I am not going to press it. If I do not play, it does not cost the Vikings a dime. They keep the $13 million," Favre told the Biloxi Sun Herald newspaper.

Obviously, Favre's status for 2010 is a major issue for the Vikings. Many NFL prognosticators predict the Vikings to win the NFC North division with him, but without him many of those same NFL observers favor the Green Bay Packers in the division.

The fact that Favre has one year and $13 million remaining on his contract is the primary short-term quarterback issue in Minnesota. But, long-term, there should be just as much concern.

Favre could opt to return for more than one year, but the Vikings likely wouldn't have any assurance of that before August 2011 – and the same situation they have with most of their quarterbacks currently under contract doesn't provide any more clarity. Favre is the short-term concern, but looking ahead shows the propositions with the other quarterbacks are just as dicey:

* Tarvaris Jackson, Favre's primary backup last year, was given a one-year tender as a restricted free agent and other NFL teams weren't willing to give up even a third-round pick to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. He'll earn $1.176 million this year, but his future after that is far from certain.

Jackson said the Vikings didn't broach the subject of a long-term deal before tendering him prior to the start of free agency.

* Sage Rosenfels, who fetched a fourth-round draft pick for the Houston Texans when he was traded to the Vikings in February 2009, wasn't even active for a single game last year. He was originally signed to compete with Jackson for the starting job last year and the two of them attempted to win the job last summer, but eventually Favre signed with the Vikings after the team's decision-makers were left uninspired by what they saw from Jackson and Rosenfels in training camp and the preseason.

Things are looking even direr for Rosenfels right now. He is the only quarterback on the Vikings' roster with NFL experience that is signed beyond this season. In fact, Rosenfels has the second-richest contract, which might be part of the reason he is looking so vulnerably expendable right now.

After trading for him last year, the Vikings extended Rosenfels' contract through 2011, making it a three-year deal worth $9 million. He got a $1.4 million signing bonus last year and is due base salaries of $2.6 million this year and $3 million in 2011. If he looks like he'll end up sitting behind Jackson again this year, there is a good chance the team would either attempt to trade him for whatever they can get – his trade value is diminished because of his healthy base salary – or outright release him.

For his part, Rosenfels declined to comment two straight days at minicamp after his snaps during team drills were severely limited on Saturday and eliminated altogether on the final day.

* One of the reasons Rosenfels is looking more expendable is the surprisingly strong showing by rookie Joe Webb, who was originally drafted with the intention of moving him to wide receiver after he had a successful collegiate career at Alabama-Birmingham, where he became the only quarterback in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. That combination showed his athleticism and caused NFL scouts to request playing him at receiver at the Senior Bowl in January.

The Vikings drafted him as a receiver, but after seeing him throw some passes on the final day of rookie minicamp, they worked him at the ensuing organized team activities and full-squad minicamp as a quarterback, where he displayed a strong arm and solid decision-making skills.

It remains to be seen how quickly Webb can grasp the playbook and how he performs when the pads go on for training camp and preseason games, but he at least looks like a more intriguing prospect than the undrafted quarterback R.J. Archer.

The Vikings learned in 2007 that trying to sneak a quarterback prospect through waivers and onto the practice squad is a troublesome proposition. They tried that with Tyler Thigpen and the Kansas City Chiefs signed him to their active roster. If Favre returns, in order to make room for Webb on the 53-man roster, either Rosenfels or Jackson would likely be traded or released. Right now, the indications are that the Vikings clearly favor Jackson over Rosenfels.

Webb is in line for a four-year contract, which would give the Vikings security with him through 2013. Signing any of the veterans to an extension could become more dicey given veterans contracts vary wildly and it's anybody's guess what kind of salary structure/salary cap the league will have after its Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire after this season.

Considering the quarterback contracts that are also set to expire after this season – Favre and Jackson – and the precarious position that Rosenfels is in, the long-term future of the Vikings quarterback position is every bit as much in doubt as the short-term Winter Park wonderment over Favre.


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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