Since the re-retirement of Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, the Minnesota Vikings have struggled to find stability at the quarterback position. Inconsistency from 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder forced the Vikings to acquire free-agent quarterback Matt Cassel during the 2013 offseason. After a season of splitting time with Ponder as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, Cassel will enter training camp in 2014 as the Vikings projected Week 1 starter.
Cassel gave Vikings upper-management a bit of a scare when he decided to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. Cassel would ultimately re-sign with the Vikings on a two-year, $10 million contract, much to the excitement of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
While Cassel will compete with rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater and somewhat Ponder as well, it has been Turner’s comments and coaching history that have led many to believe Cassel will ultimately be the Vikings’ Week 1 starter at quarterback. Turner went out of his way to state that he wanted the Cleveland Browns to sign Cassel when he was the offensive coordinator there last season.
In 2013, Cassel was far and away the best quarterback on the Vikings’ roster. He was responsible for three of the team’s five wins and developed far better chemistry with No. 1 wide receiver Greg Jennings than Ponder.
Cassel probably gives the Vikings the best chance to win games this season, but the fact remains that he is nothing more than a stopgap quarterback for the team. The Vikings’ decision to draft Bridgewater in the first round this season proves that Cassel’s starts for the team may be numbered.
While Cassel has received the majority of the first-team reps at quarterback, both head coach Mike Zimmer and Turner have expressed nothing but positivity with regards to the rookie Bridgewater. As a result, Cassel’s performance during training camp and the preseason will likely determine whether he is able to hold onto what appears to be his starting job to lose.
Assuming Cassel does win the Vikings’ quarterback competition, he will begin the season with a number of tough matchups. The Vikings face the St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers in Weeks 1 through 5, which should make holding onto the starting quarterback position very difficult for Cassel.
Expect Cassel to begin the 2014 season as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, but ultimately relinquish the role to Bridgewater if he struggles to win games early against a host of difficult opponents.