Minnesota Vikings: Speculation Surrounding Possible Ponder Trade
The 2013 season was one of hope for Minnesota Vikings fans—hope of another playoff run—but three weeks in, cracks began to fissure the organization and rumblings from fans grew louder.
In my last article, I pointed out several scenarios regarding the Vikings' quarterback situation. As it now stands, Matt Cassel will start his second consecutive game. Ponder is listed as questionable, but most people believe that means questionable in terms of remaining a Viking.
So, given the Vikings' current situation, the question is, “What to do with Christian Ponder?”
I have been and will continue to be a fan of Christian Ponder. Never have I seen more vitriol from Vikings fans as I have seen toward Ponder. Fans weren’t this vicious about Brad Childress, and he nearly brought the franchise to its knees. But we are where we are, so the Vikings have a dilemma.
I could spend slide after slide defending why Ponder deserves to at least remain the starter for the remainder of this season, but the current climate in Minnesota would indicate the kid is not wanted.
For all intent and purpose, Ponder seems more like a goner than a remaining a member of the Vikings organization. If the Vikings were to hold on to Ponder and if Cassel were to get injured or fail—and if Freeman was significantly delayed in picking up the offense—it would be hard to go back to a guy so disliked by the fanbase. You can look over every franchise in the last 15 or 20 years and ask, “Has any team gone back to a former starter who was benched?”
So, if Ponder is to be dealt, where are some likely places he could wind up and what could the Vikings get in value for him? Well, let’s find out!
Depending on whom the Vikings can trade with and that team’s situation, I believe the Vikings should be able to get a third- or fourth-round pick for Ponder. That’s a far cry for a former No. 12 selection, but something is better than nothing.
Worst case scenario is that you get no takers, and the Vikings release him at season’s end—or sooner. But, Ponder does have trade value, and I am sure Rick Spielman will be working the phones pretty heavily once that decision is made.
Remember, the Vikings are most likely still in a holding pattern because, one, Cassel could get hurt and Freeman isn’t ready and, two, Freeman is probably two weeks from possibly being handed the reins for the remainder of the season. And, who knows how he will play. So, there will not be a quick decision on Ponder’s fate.
My guess is Freeman makes his first start against the Packers. Advantage Vikings because the Packers would not have any current game film as a Viking, only tape from Buccaneers games and Freeman’s tendencies.
As it goes, time will tell how this all plays out, but in all likelihood, Ponder will be dealt before season’s end or, at the very least, once the season is over and other teams can evaluate their quarterback situations.
Another factor is whether teams are looking at Ponder as a possible starter or as a backup who has significant playing time. The following slides are possible landing places for Christian Ponder.
This would be an ideal place for Ponder. One, Carson Palmer is 33. He has had a pretty good career, but he is a lot closer to the end now, and the possibility of injury increases. His backup is Drew Stanton, who has four starts in his 7-year career. The other quarterback on the roster is Ryan Lindley. Lindley is only in his second season, but his four starts last year were pretty ugly—zero touchdowns and seven INTs with a 46.1 QBR.
Bruce Arians has a history with quarterbacks. He was Peyton Manning’s first QB coach. Then, he had Big Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. He had rookie Andrew Luck last year, posting a 9-3 record in Chuck Pagano’s absence. Now, he has Carson Palmer and could be a great coach for young Ponder.
This makes sense because the Cardinals have a pretty competitive team. Are they in the Seahawks or 49ers class right now? No, but they have a solid defense, strong receiving corps and just need to have that steady reliable back. Ponder could sit and learn and, because Palmer’s career is nearing its sunset, could slide in after Palmer hangs them up. Plus, they wouldn’t have to change the initials for any references out there in the desert from Carson Palmer to Christian Ponder—just sayin’.
Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid is no dummy. He has to have an insurance policy behind Alex Smith. Smith is 29 but has had a stressful career. Although he is enjoying recent success, having Ponder as his backup would be pretty good insurance should Smith get injured or lose his recent pension for being a strong game manager.
Why it makes sense? Reid runs a West Coast offense that Ponder could easily adapt to. And, in some ways, Ponder is most likely a late bloomer, just as Smith appears to be. Also, Ponder brings an athleticism that Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray do not. Andy likes athletic quarterbacks, for the most part.
Mentioning Daniel and Bray, both have zero starts between them. Yes, Bray is a rookie, and he could easily remain the third quarterback, but the Chiefs are competitive right now and will remain for the foreseeable future, so a bona fide backup with plenty of starts under his belt should not be a significant drop off.
If you’re a Chiefs fan, who would you rather see come in should Smith go down, Chase Daniel or Christian Ponder?
New Orleans Saints
Here it comes. Oh when the Saints, oh when the Saints, oh when the Saints come marching in. This is probably the most unlikely of the trades posited at this point, but hang on and keep reading, you may agree.
Drew Brees has been phenomenal. In fact, I always felt that given time and the right coaching, Ponder could be a slightly flawed replica of Brees. This could be his chance.
There are a few quarterbacks who have memorable careers, put up gaudy numbers and come away as champions. Drew Brees, one; San Diego Chargers, zero. Who has the last laugh on that deal?
I don’t expect Ponder to wind up in that rarified air. He could, but at this point, the realistic observant says that Ponder could have a pretty nice career when it’s all said and done. New Orleans would be a nice destination for Ponder.
Drew Brees is 34 and is in his 13th season. He looks good enough to play for another five or six years, but as in most QB cases, when the skills go south, they go south in a hurry. Brees would be a phenomenal mentor for Christian, and again, God forbid Brees goes down, but Ponder is a better option than Luke McCown, who is in his 10th year and has a total of nine starts and is now with his fifth team.
St. Louis Rams
Yes, the Rams have Sam Bradford, but how much longer do they maintain patience with him? Yes, from a pocket perspective and scouting report, Bradford is a more solid pocket passer than Ponder, but the mobility factor is something that may intrigue Fisher, who resides in a division of two pretty mobile quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Bradford’s record as a starter is 18-34-1.
Sam Bradford was the No. 8 pick in 2010 but has yet to play up to that billing. He has never had more than a QBR of 83. He throws TDs, 55 thus far, but also has his fair share of INTs, 37. He is having a decent start to this year, but nothing spurs the battle more than a quarterback competition. With Kellen Clemens as Bradford’s backup, that’s not a lot of competition for him.
Other Possible Destinations
This is the NFL, and much like politics, it can sometimes make for strange bedfellows.
Some may speculate teams like the Browns or Jaguars—heck, maybe even Houston—could be interested in Ponder. Don’t be surprised to hear rumors of the Packers. Who does Rodgers have to back him up? That search is still under way. If Matt Flynn can throw six touchdowns in one game for the Packers, surely it’s a quarterback friendly system where Ponder may serve as a capable backup. Oh, the irony is not lost on me, I assure you.
This is purely a speculation piece, and no one other than the Vikings' front office really knows what the situation is and what their plans are for moving forward, whether that includes Christian Ponder or not.
One thing is for sure, three starting-caliber quarterbacks means you have no starting quarterback. The Vikings will have to do something soon, whether it is to keep Ponder, start Freeman or Cassel or one of a dozen other possible scenarios, the conversation from the front office down to the coaches and on down to the players will have to be one where everyone is on the same page and no one is leaking information or saying something to the public contrary to what the organization wants.
As a fan of Ponder, I wish him well. I still feel strongly that he will have a decent NFL career. I usually reserve judgment on players for the first five years. After all, Newton was a world beater his first year yet, now, seems to struggle, and he has some pretty stout players around him as well. Colin Kaepernick, every magazine’s cover “bad” boy, is now seeing that the NFL is a pretty astute place, and that you’re blind luck is only going to get you so far.
Bottom-line, players deserve a full evaluation. Apparently, the Vikings saw an opportunity to get a first-round caliber player in Josh Freeman. Only time will tell if that pays off. I am in the corner that says Ponder deserved to at least have this full season as the starter in order to have a full two-year evaluation for the staff to go on. That is not going to be the case. And, I don’t think you would have gotten much of an argument from Freeman to stay as a backup given all the drama surrounding him. Plus, it would give him plenty of time to learn the offense and make the offseason a season of competition. Instead, it has accelerated the organizations hand in making a decision.
A good kid, stand-up guy and probably late bloomer, is most likely being shown the door. Good luck, Christian, wherever you go or wind up.