Vikings land QB Cassel, talk with WR Jennings

Two of the Minnesota Vikings’ biggest priorities this offseason

were to bolster a thin receiver corps and get a quality veteran to

backup quarterback Christian Ponder.

One down, one to go.

The Vikings agreed to terms with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback

Matt Cassel on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the deal told

The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it had not

been officially announced. It’s been a busy day for the Vikings,

who also were hosting Green Bay Packers free agent receiver Greg

Jennings for a visit.

The agent for Jennings, Eugene Parker, told the AP his client

was visiting Green Bay’s NFC North rival. ESPN first reported the


Cassel agreed to terms with the Vikings, a deal first reported

by Fox Sports, on the same day he was formally released by the

Chiefs with two years left on his contract. He spent the last four

years in Kansas City, making the Pro Bowl in 2010 after throwing

for 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. But he has

struggled the last two years, with 16 TDs and 21 interceptions. He

completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,796 yards with six

touchdowns and 12 interceptions in nine games last year.

Cassel will replace Joe Webb as Christian Ponder’s backup.

Ponder has been inconsistent his first two seasons, but GM Rick

Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier have expressed strong support for

their young quarterback and labeled him as the definitive starter

when the team starts preparations for 2013.

The 29-year-old Jennings played in only eight games for the

Packers in 2012, plus two in the playoffs, because of a torn lower

abdominal muscle and finished with a career-low 366 yards receiving

with an average of 10.2 yards per catch, also his worst NFL total.

In 2011, he missed three games with a sprained left knee.

But as the Vikings well know, Jennings has been one of the best

in the league since he was drafted in the second round in 2006 out

of Western Michigan. He has three years of at least 1,100 yards

receiving and two 12-touchdown seasons. In 14 career games against

the Vikings, Jennings racked up 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. The

Packers won 10 times.

The Vikings sure haven’t been shy about signing players from

their fiercest intra-division competitor.

They brought in safety Darren Sharper in 2005, kicker Ryan

Longwell in 2006 and wide receiver Robert Ferguson in 2007. They’ve

tried to woo others in recent years, too: fullback William

Henderson, defensive end Aaron Kampman and wide receiver James


Then, of course, there was Brett Favre, whose embittered

departure from the Packers in 2008 paved the way for him joining

the Vikings in 2009 and nearly taking them to the Super Bowl.

More important to the Vikings than nabbing a popular, productive

player from the Packers, though, is upgrading their perilously thin

group of wide receivers. After trading Percy Harvin, cutting

Michael Jenkins and letting Devin Aromashodu become a free agent,

the Vikings currently have only three players at the position with

any NFL experience: Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Stephen

Burton. Wright has played in seven career games. Burton has seven

career catches.

Spielman has repeatedly stated the organization’s preference to

focus on drafting and developing players rather than relying on

free agency to fill gaps on the roster, but they’ll likely need to

add at least one veteran to the group even if they draft a handful

of them.

Ponder said in an interview this week he doesn’t think it’s

paramount to add more experience but acknowledged he wouldn’t mind

throwing to a polished, versatile wide receiver like Jennings.

”He’s as great player. He’s been doing great things in Green

Bay, and he’d bring leadership to that position,” Ponder said.

”Kind of a dynamic guy you can put in the slot and outside. I’ve

always admired his work in Green Bay, and he seems like a great guy

to have on a team.”

Plenty of money has been flying around the NFL the last few days

for wide receivers, beginning with Mike Wallace’s big contract with

Miami. Wes Welker went to Denver, and Danny Amendola replaced him

in New England. Donnie Avery signed with Kansas City. By waiting

during the initial wave, the Vikings ought to get a lower price for

Jennings if he’s willing to come to a team with a still-developing

quarterback in Ponder.

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