The Vikings head into this offseason facing the same question they had a year ago. Who will be this team’s starting quarterback in 2009?
Tarvaris Jackson began and finished the season as the starter, but in between he was benched for 11 games, and it’s not clear what the future holds for him. Gus Frerotte has a year left on his contract, but the 37-year-old appears to want some assurances about his role, and it’s likely he won’t be getting any.
The third quarterback was rookie fifth-round pick John David Booty, but he probably will spend at least another season learning from the sideline.
Although many of Jackson’s teammates supported him after the Vikings’ 26-14 loss to Philadelphia in a wild-card playoff game Sunday, there was no denying Jackson looked much more like the quarterback who struggled in the first two games than the guy who looked superb after taking over for the injured Frerotte in early December.
Jackson completed 15 of 35 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns, an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a sub-par 45.4 passer rating.
Coach Brad Childress did not say much about the future of the quarterback position after the defeat, but it’s clear the Vikings front office is going to have to take a long look at the position in the coming months.
It would not be surprising to see the Vikings attempt to go outside the organization. This certainly isn’t a team that is afraid to spend money.
Remember, last off-season they signed wide receiver Bernard Berrian and safety Madieu Williams to big free-agent contracts and then traded for defensive end Jared Allen before signing him to a six-year, $74.5 million contract that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
The Vikings also flirted with the idea of trading for a quarterback, but they weren’t willing to give Houston a second-round pick for backup Sage Rosenfels.
It will be interesting to see if the Vikings make another run at Rosenfels. As is often the case, there won’t be much help at the quarterback spot in free agency. Veterans Kerry Collins, Jeff Garcia and Kurt Warner are nearing the end of their careers, and J.P. Losman, Dan Orlovsky and Chris Simms likely aren’t going to create much excitement.
The one significant free agent quarterback is Matt Cassel, but the Patriots are expected to put the franchise tag on him. This, of course, could put New England in a position to trade Cassel if Tom Brady makes progress in his recovery from a knee injury that ended his season.
Cassel would come at a steep price, but the Vikings are willing to make a big investment given they feel the player is worth it. They surrendered three draft picks to get Allen last off-season, including their first-rounder.
LT Bryant McKinnie said he has hired a personal trainer for the first time to work with this offseason. McKinnie just completed his seventh season. He was arrested last off-season for being involved in a brawl outside a Miami nightclub. He faces four charges, including one felony, and has a March 16 trial date scheduled. That arrest also led to him being suspended for the first four games of this season.
LB Heath Farwell, one of the Vikings’ best special-teams players, said he is making good progress after missing the season because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the opening preseason game. Farwell is expected to be given full clearance in March. He will be an unrestricted free agent so it’s not certain if he will return to Minnesota.
The Vikings named their MVPs for the season. In voting conducted among players and coaches, running back Adrian Peterson was the offensive MVP, tackle Kevin Williams won on defense and kicker Ryan Longwell won on special teams.
Nose tackle Pat Williams, who missed the final three games because of a broken right shoulder blade, said he plans to play in the Pro Bowl.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “This is new to me. I’ve never been an unrestricted free agent before. I don’t know if it feels good, it’s just different. It feels kind of strange.” — Center Matt Birk, a native of St. Paul, Minn., talking about the fact this was the last season of his contract. He has spent all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Vikings and his last contract was signed in September 2001.