There is no question that the Minnesota Vikings are 100 percent invested in Christian Ponder as their franchise quarterback.
The Vikings selected the Florida State prospect with the 12th overall pick in 2011. Ponder is only the third first-round quarterback selected by the franchise (Tommy Kramer in 1977 and Daunte Culpepper in 1999) and was the fourth of 12 quarterbacks drafted.
The Vikings originally envisioned Ponder sitting on the bench for a season behind recently acquired Donovan McNabb, but McNabb was released after the Vikings began the 2011 campaign 1-5. The Vikings finished 2-8 with Ponder at the helm in his rookie season, a season in which he completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,853 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
2012 was a better year for the Vikings, as they won 10 games and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. While the Vikings were led by their defense and NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, Ponder showed improvement at times, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,935 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The Vikings have multiple improvements to make this offseason, with the more pressing including wide receivers, linebackers, defensive tackles and defensive backs. But one thing the Vikings will need to add is a veteran quarterback to complement and challenge Christian Ponder.
And this is the perfect offseason to do it.
The 2013 NFL free-agent class isn’t the place to find a franchise quarterback this offseason, but it is the place to find a veteran backup. With the exception of Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who is expected to re-sign with Baltimore before hitting the open market, the free-agent class is chock full of career backups and failed starters.
Options the Vikings could look at would be veteran players like Matt Moore, Jason Campbell, Tarvaris Jackson, Rex Grossman, Derek Anderson or Byron Leftwich.
By the time free agency begins on March 12, it could also include more expensive names like Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Alex Smith, Matt Flynn or Kevin Kolb. But the Vikings’ immediate interests are developing Christian Ponder and not overpaying for somebody to come replace him.
The Vikings need to add some experience to aid Ponder. Current backup Joe Webb only has three NFL starts, including the Vikings' 24-17 playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Third-stringer McLeod Bethel-Thompson has never seen the field.
The Vikings could draft somebody like Landry Jones of Oklahoma, EJ Manuel of Florida State or Matt Scott of Arizona in the mid to late rounds, but that would negate the whole veteran aspect. It wouldn't be a terrible move, but the Vikings need somebody that has been around the block.
Enter Brian Hoyer.
Signing Hoyer would be interesting; he hasn’t been terrible in the limited opportunities he’s been given. He has, however, had the ability to learn from some successful coaching staffs, notably those of Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin.
But his inability to beat out players like Charlie Batch, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley for starts is worrisome. He did, however, complete 30 of 52 passes in limited action for the Arizona Cardinals' debacle last season.
Who should back up Christian Ponder in 2013?
Hoyer was undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009, but signed with the New England Patriots to back up All-Pro Tom Brady. The rookie beat out Matt Gutierrez, Kevin O’Connell and Andrew Walter for the backup role...something unprecedented for an undrafted rookie.
Belichick only carried two quarterbacks on the rosters, so if he had enough faith in Hoyer to be there in case Brady went down, Hoyer deserves a shot anywhere.
He was released by the Patriots after they drafted Ryan Mallett in 2012. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers the following November to back up the veteran Batch after both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich went down with injuries. He was the third-string quarterback in Arizona last season, and started the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers.
He has proved that he can be successful in short stints. Hoyer has completed 60 percent of his passes (57-of-96) for 616 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 72.2.
He has decent size for a quarterback (6'2" and 220 lbs) and turns 28 in October. The Vikings could use the experience and knowledge from somebody that comes from the Belichick tree.
While Hoyer doesn’t have the on-field experience of a Derek Anderson or Jason Campbell, the knowledge he’s obtained from players like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger could be valuable to the Vikings.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if the Vikings make a run for Hoyer.