Christian Ponder could enter the offseason as the only quarterback under contract with the Minnesota Vikings, but, at least in the opinion of ESPN Vikings writer Ben Goessling, he could nevertheless be on his way out of town.
When asked whether a new coaching regime (the Vikings are currently searching for Leslie Frazier's replacement) would consider keeping Ponder on as a reclamation project, Goessling replied in the negative:
I can't see them investing more time in Ponder when they're probably going to have to draft another young quarterback this spring. When they gave Ponder another chance to start in November, it seemed like he was in his final shot. It's probably best for them to part ways with him and let him try to catch on somewhere else.
With Josh Freeman's contract expiring and Matt Cassel having the ability to opt out of his, Minnesota faces a decision on who to bring back for next season. None of the three played well in 2013, but Cassel started the final four games and looks to be the favorite to stay on.
Ponder, who the Vikings selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, has been wildly inconsistent in his three years at the helm. He was limited by concussion issues this season, which, coupled with poor play, cost him seven games. He went 2-6-1 in nine starts, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,648 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Minnesota went 3-3 with Cassel as the starter. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He threw for 382 yards and two scores against the Eagles in Week 13, but followed that up with 114 yards and three picks against the Bengals the next week.
Freeman, who was signed to a one-year deal after being released by the Buccaneers early in the season, started just one game (and made $2 million for it). He spent most of his time in Minnesota on the inactive list and doesn't appear to be in the team's plans moving forward.
If the Vikings can convince Cassel to stick around, they'll likely use him as a transitional player after selecting a new franchise quarterback at the top of the upcoming draft. SB Nation's latest mock has the Vikings using the No. 8 pick on Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who declared earlier this week. Fresno State's Derek Carr and Central Florida's Blake Bortles are likely just out of reach, though the Texans have expressed interest in trading away the top pick and thereby the rights to consensus top prospect Teddy Bridgewater.