Vikings to sign Cassel to back up Ponder
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings didn’t wait long to find a backup quarterback.
FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer is reporting that Minnesota has agreed to terms with former Kansas City Chiefs starter Matt Cassel, hours after Cassel was cut by Kansas City on Thursday morning. At the Scouting Combine in February, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the team would look at bringing in a more experienced backup for starter Christian Ponder after last year’s No. 2 Joe Webb struggled mightily in the playoffs while Ponder was injured.
Cassel, 30, started eight of his nine games for the Chiefs last season, throwing for 1,796 yards, six touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes and had a 66. 7 quarterback rating. During the season, Cassel lost his starting job to Brady Quinn. Chiefs fans infamously cheered when Cassel left a midseason game with a head injury. Once he recovered from the injury, he remained Quinn’s backup.
In Minnesota, Cassel will play behind Ponder, whom the Vikings have entrusted as their starter after picking him No. 12 overall in the 2012 draft. Maybe his presence can even push Ponder to improve more quickly.
“We expect in his third season he’s going to take another jump, and part of that will be what happens this offseason,” Frazier said at the combine. “So, we’re not at a point where we’re looking for a quarterback to come in and move Christian at all. We expect him just to keep getting better. … We feel like we have our guy in place. We just want to see him keep improving.”
Frazier opened the possibility of “potentially” adding competition for Webb as the backup and said the team would “look at a bunch of different avenues.”
Minnesota cut veteran Sage Rosenfels at the end of training camp, leaving Webb and undrafted rookie McLeod Bethel-Thompson as Ponder’s backups. Webb, a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft, started for the Vikings in the playoff loss at Green Bay after Ponder suffered a bruised triceps. After not having thrown a pass in a game all season, Webb was 11 of 30 for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“(Webb) was in a tough spot in that playoff game, not taking any snaps and not knowing for sure that he was going to end up being the starter,” Frazier said at the combine. “So, it was a tough, tough deal for him. But that position like a lot of our positions, the backup quarterback position is one we’re going to create competition and try to make sure that we have the right guy in place backing up Christian, if for whatever reason something happens injury-wise. But Joe understands that. He’ll come back. He’ll compete. He’ll work as hard as he can. So will (McLeod) Bethel-Thompson, and if we decide to do anything else, those guys will compete for that second position.”
Cassel, once the Chiefs’ hope for a long-term answer at quarterback after he was acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots in 2009, was squeezed out this offseason after Kansas City traded for Alex Smith to be the starter and then added Chase Daniel as a backup in free agency. Cassel originally signed a six-year, $62.7 million contact with the Chiefs.
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