The Minnesota Vikings approach free agency with a resounding theme—Christian Ponder will be the starting quarterback in 2013. However, the No. 2 spot appears to be up for grabs, with Joe Webb opening the door following his performance against the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round of the 2012 playoffs.
Webb completed 11-of-30 passes for 180 yards, including a touchdown and an interception in relief of Ponder. The player fans had been crying for all year managed a paltry 54.9 passer rating in the biggest game of his career.
Coach Leslie Frazier recently spoke to reporters and addressed the backup quarterback situation. According to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Frazier stressed the importance of solidifying the backup role:
I still have confidence in Joe. I just feel like he had a tough situation to go into (when he started the Vikings' wild-card playoff loss with Ponder hurt). I'd like to see him compete with whatever we end up doing, whether it be a veteran guy or we draft a guy. But we definitely need to solidify that backup position so we all go into the season feeling pretty good about whoever has to step in, if something were to happen to Christian, could do a good job for us.
With free agency starting on March 12, 2013, the Vikings have several options to consider at backup quarterback. While McLeod Bethel-Thompson remains on the roster, it is unlikely he will supplant Webb in backup duties.
Former Viking Tarvaris Jackson recently signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills worth up to $4.5 million, ending any chance of the contentious quarterback rejoining the team he last played for in 2010.
The following five free-agent quarterbacks are the players Rick Spielman and the front office should pursue to back up Ponder.
Brian Hoyer was an undrafted free agent signed by the New England Patriots in 2009. He played for Michigan State University and was a candidate for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is presented annually to the top senior quarterback in the nation.
In his NFL debut, he was a perfect 5-of-5 for 35 yards and scored his first touchdown on a one-yard rushing play. He entered 2010 in the same role and threw his first touchdown pass in Week 17 to Brandon Tate for 47 yards.
After the Patriots chose former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft, Hoyer's days in New England were numbered. After staying on with the Patriots in 2011, he was released in 2012 and joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and eventually the Arizona Cardinals, where he started against the San Francisco 49ers. Hoyer held his own throwing for 225 yards on 19-of-34 attempts, including a late touchdown and one interception.
The Vikings could use Hoyer who learned under Tom Brady for three years in New England. He played well in his lone start for the Cardinals, making smart decisions and staying patient against an aggressive 49ers team who were at home playing for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Drew Stanton, the starting quarterback for Michigan State University prior to Brian Hoyer, was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2007 in the second round with the 43rd overall pick.
He struggled through injuries during his first two years but made his NFL debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008, replacing former Viking quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Stanton completed 6-of-8 passes for 94 yards, including a one-yard touchdown pass on his first attempt.
Stanton was temporarily acquired by the New York Jets in 2012 but requested a release or trade following the signing of Tim Tebow. On March 23, 2012, the Jets traded Stanton to the Indianapolis Colts for a sixth-round draft pick, exchanging the seventh-round pick the team previously received with Tebow.
The career statistics for the 28-year-old signal-caller include a 55.6 percent completion rate—on 104-of-187 attempts—for 780 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Stanton has a career passer rating of 63.1 and would bring six years of experience to the Vikings, most recently helping to guide rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to success.
Vikings fans may cringe at the thought of the former Chicago Bear joining the purple and gold, but Grossman brings a veteran presence and could mentor Christian Ponder in the NFC North.
Playing for the rival Bears from 2003-2008, Grossman has been through the same struggles and criticism Ponder currently faces in the NFL.
At age 32, Grossman has an impressive statistical resume for a backup quarterback, posting 10,232 yards (863-of-1,562) for a 55.3 percent completion rate. The former Florida Gator has thrown 56 touchdowns and 60 interceptions and has a 71.4 passer rating.
Starting for the Washington Redskins in 2011, Grossman outperformed his career statistics with a 57.9 percent completion rate and a 72.4 passer rating. After backing up Robert Griffin III in 2012, Grossman is prepared to hit free agency and is a viable option for Minnesota over Joe Webb.
Jason Campbell was drafted in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft with the 25th overall pick by the Washington Redskins. As an Auburn Tiger, he led his team to an undefeated 2004 season and was named SEC Player of the Year and MVP of the SEC Championship Game.
Campbell played for the Redskins from 2006-2009, posting his best season as a starter in his final season with the team in 2009 with 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, a 64.5 percent completion rate and an 86.4 passer rating.
He signed with the Oakland Raiders for 2010-2011 and with the Chicago Bears in 2012, where he played in six games and completed 32-of-51 passes (62.7 percent completion rate). Campbell recorded two touchdowns and two interceptions, resulting in a 72.8 passer rating.
Campbell has a calming sense of leadership and demonstrated good decision-making skills in the pocket, traits Christian Ponder must learn to replicate. He provides a wealth of experience from his eight years in the league, exactly what the Vikings need in a backup quarterback.
Matt Moore presents the best option for Rick Spielman and the front office for a backup quarterback. Other than free agent Joe Flacco, who is almost certain to re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens, Moore is the best available quarterback on the market and would be an incredible addition to the Vikings.
Moore was an undrafted free agent in the 2007 NFL draft but later signed with the Dallas Cowboys. The team tried to waive and re-sign him off waivers for the practice squad, but the Carolina Panthers soon claimed Moore off waivers.
The former Oregon State Beaver has a career passer rating of 80.5 and excelled in the two games he played for the Miami Dolphins in 2012. He recorded 131 yards on 11-of-19 passing with one touchdown and no interceptions. The 28-year-old posted a passer rating of 96.6 in his final season with the Dolphins.
Although there is no intent to have a quarterback competition, Moore could easily step in for Ponder and perform, and is the most ready-now quarterback available for the Vikings—something the team severely lacked in the playoffs against the Packers.
Honorable Mention: Chase Daniel, Josh Johnson, Tyler Thigpen, Byron Leftwich, Brady Quinn
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