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In the short term, this may be very beneficial to the Minnesota Vikings. All they gave up was a late-round draft pick, and they acquired an all-time great in Donovan McNabb. This move also complies with the generalization that rookie quarterbacks need to sit the bench for a season or two in order to be groomed to play in the NFL.
While I don't completely agree with that principle, I do feel that McNabb gives the Vikings the best shot to win in 2011. His struggles with the Washington Redskins were well-documented, but look at history and you will see that that's not such a bad sign.
Brett Favre struggled with the New York Jets for a season after leaving the Green Bay Packers, and then enjoyed the best season of his career in Minnesota. It's all about finding the right situation, so don't scrutinize McNabb's 2010 season so harshly.
If McNabb does not do well, it's not the end of the world, either. Insert Christian Ponder in his sophomore season and see where he can take you. If he develops as I expect, the Vikings will be in contention by the time Adrian Peterson turns 30.
By trading for McNabb, the Vikings have pretty much ensured that rookie Christian Ponder will not be starting in the season opener, and likely not by midseason either. Ponder is a prospect whom I considered to be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this rookie class, in contrast to most experts, who leaned towards crowning Andy Dalton with that honor.
By pushing Ponder into competition, it may bring out a good side of him, but there is always a possibility that he is not a competitive guy.
He faced little competition in college, after being handed the starting job in his sophomore season. Ponder has shown that he is determined to win the starting job, though, so the true risk in the trade does not lie here.
I could see some problems developing if McNabb becomes the leader of this football team, and Ponder may be left behind. McNabb is 34 years old, and might just have a few good seasons left in the tank.
If he plays well for the Vikings, they could be left with a tough decision at the end of the season—whether to keep McNabb and try to win immediately, or trust Ponder with the franchise moving forward.
The longer that McNabb stays, the harder it will be for Ponder to step into the starting job. He is a leader, and taking the backup role may not be something he will be comfortable with. And if he is discontent with the team's decision to start McNabb, he may be looking for an escape route out of Minnesota before his rookie contract expires.
Remember, with the new rookie salary limitations, young players will want to show that they deserve a big contract, and he may realize he has to go elsewhere to earn that.