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From a pure performance perspective, Christian Ponder probably should not be released from his cheap contract heading into next year.
While he wouldn't be named the starter, Ponder has all the qualities of a fine backup quarterback, whose duties extend far beyond simply being available and into being a critical game planning personnel and a second set of eyes for the starter.
In fact, all three quarterbacks on the roster have that quality about them, which would make that trait redundant if anything.
Instead, Ponder should go simply because it's time for the organization and the player to part ways. At this point, the atmosphere has become somewhat poisonous and a new group of players—one that hasn't had to experience his play for the past three years—might be best for him.
For the organization, it's important as well.
Familiarity won't matter, as the Vikings will implement a different offensive scheme, but the Vikings need to invest in players that the rest of the locker room can feel confident in. After these last three seasons, it might be a lost cause for Ponder to do that, should he be called upon in an emergency situation.
More than that, it might allow the Vikings to more easily clarify the role of new players entering the organization, without the specter of a quarterback battle looming over their heads. Getting as many reps as possible for a new quarterback will be necessary.
Players and teams can turn around after a fresh start, and despite the fact that Ponder might prove to be a top-tier backup quarterback in the NFL, it's time for the Vikings to move on.