With Christian Ponder heading into a make-or-break season, the Minnesota Vikings must plan for the future at the quarterback position. They added Matt Cassel via free agency this offseason to be the backup, but have yet to peg a No. 3 heading into 2013.
With Joe Webb apparently moving to wide receiver and McLeod Bethel-Thompson still donning the “project” label, a door could open for undrafted rookie signing James Vandenberg.
An Iowa product who failed to hear his name called this past April, Vandenberg has stoked some excitement since the Vikings held their rookie minicamp last weekend. Despite throwing an interception with his first one-on-one pass of camp, Vandenberg has the physical tools to develop into a quality NFL passer.
Given a modest $5,000 bonus when signed after the draft, Vandenberg has the opportunity to steal a spot on the Vikings’ 53-man roster. Webb likely won’t be in the mix after his disastrous effort during January’s Wild Card loss to the Green Bay Packers. Bethel-Thompson, however, is a definite possibility for the No. 3 spot with a strong arm and plenty of athleticism. Assuming the Vikings keep three quarterbacks on the roster, the competition for the final spot is wide open.
Vandenberg is a talented pocket passer with enough arm strength to make all of the NFL throws. He does a good job of hitting receivers on timing routes, something that could help make him a valuable asset for the Vikings. If Minnesota is going to keep him around, though, he’ll have to display improved accuracy and decision-making between now and the preseason.
During his senior season with the Hawkeyes, Vandenberg amassed 2,249 yards while throwing seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Compared to his junior campaign (3,022 yards, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions), he fell off a cliff in 2012 while working with a lackluster supporting staff. Still, if he can return to 2011 form, the potential is there for him to be a capable backup quarterback for the Vikings.
At this point, it’s anyone’s race to win. Luckily for Vandenberg, he’s the dark horse. If he shows up big during OTAs, there’s a good chance that the undrafted rookie earns an extended stay in the Twin Cities.