Minnesota Vikings: Why Matt Cassel's Departure Would Be a Bigger Loss Than You Think

The Vikings Must Make Retaining the Quarterback a Top Priority Heading into Free Agency

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Vikings' quarterback situation was a mess in 2013. Between Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman, Minnesota's offense set the game of football back 50 years with their inability to throw the football effectively.

As the passing game struggled to make use of their weapons, there was one thing that can be concluded about the 2013 season: This wasn't Matt Cassel's fault.

Cassel, who reportedly is voiding the final year of his contract signed last spring, was the most effective quarterback for the Vikings in 2013. Aside from the 3-3 record that Cassel was able to post in his six starts, he outplayed Ponder by averaging 239 yards in those games with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. (By comparison, Ponder was only able to average 183 yards with seven touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 2-6-1 record in nine starts.)

The primary assumption to go off of is that Cassel was better at using the weapons the Vikings possessed in the passing game. As Greg Jennings looked like a free-agent flop with Ponder under center (350 yards and a touchdown thrown by Cassel in nine games), he flourished under Cassel with 413 yards and three touchdowns in his six starts.

Cassel was also able to throw the deep ball better than Ponder. That limited what the offense could do and made a large majority of Ponder's throws come with in his 20 yard comfort zone. With Ponder's limited arm strength, the Vikings were restricted on offense compared to when Cassel was under center.

That ability to go deep is ideal when the Vikings now have Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator. As a passing game guru that loves to throw the ball downfield, bringing Cassel back would be a perfect stop gap solution for a team desperate to find a franchise quarterback.

By bringing Cassel back and letting him start in 2014, the Vikings can gamble a little more on a future quarterback when they select one in the draft. Instead of being pressed to reach if the "Big Four" (Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles) are off the board at the eighth pick, they can fill a different need and grab their guy in the second round (Jimmy Garoppolo, A.J. McCarron, etc.).

Convincing Cassel that his best opportunity to start is in Minnesota should be one of the Vikings' top priorities this offseason. If they're unable to do that, the team will make the same failure they've made with the last two franchise quarterback projects by throwing them into the fire too soon.

Chris Schad is a lifelong Vikings follower that has seen triumph and heartbreak for the franchise over 27 seasons. His work has also been published on Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.

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