You may have heard that the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to trade for the San Francisco 49ers former starting quarterback Alex Smith.
Back in late November of 2012, after the latest in a string of wretched performances by second-year starter Christian Ponder, guest blogger Jason Winter wrote this post suggesting Smith would be a good fit for the Vikings in 2013. But that was then, and this - after Ponder led (is that even the right word to describe it?) the Vikings to four straight wins at the end of the season to get them in the playoffs - is now. The Vikings have made it clear Ponder is the starting quarterback in 2013. Smith is soon to be a Chief. So much for that.
The leaking of the Smith deal did get me thinking a bit about whom the Vikings will have backing up Ponder though.
After producing a barf-worthy performance in the Wildcard loss to Green Bay, that backup probably isn't going to Joe Webb, although Vikings general manager Rick Spielman hasn't ruled it out.
If Spielman does bring in someone to compete with Webb for the backup job (he will, don't worry), I doubt it's going to be a rookie they draft. So it will probably be a veteran free agent. And because NFL teams don't let good quarterbacks reach free agency, the list of available guys is uninspiring. The "big" names include Jason Campbell, Derek Anderson, Pacifist Vikings's old mancrush Brady Quinn, Matt Moore, Rex Grossman, Seneca Wallace and, well, that's about it.
Moore is a guy who would be a nice pickup to back up Ponder. But I don't see why a guy who was stuck behind a younger first-round draft pick in Miami would sign with a team where he will be stuck behind a younger first-round draft pick. Moore is going to go to a team where he's at least given the chance to compete for the starting job, and that is not happening in Minnesota - at least not in 2013.
With that in mind, the guy I kept thinking about today was Tyler Thigpen. He would appeal to the Vikings for a few reasons. Number one - he would be willing to accept the role as a backup to Ponder. That's what he did in Buffalo the past two years playing behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. Thigpen would also be cheap to sign. Last year he made $1.5 million, and signing a similar deal with the Vikings allows Spielman to spend the club's remaining cap space on other needs. Thigpen was also fairly successful the one year he got significant playing time - in 2008 with those Kansas City Chiefs. He threw for 2,800 yards in 11 starts and 18 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions. His completion percentage was too low at 54.8 per cent, but this is a backup we're talking about here. You can't have it all with these guys. The other thing is that Spielman has a history with Thigpen. The Vikings drafted him in 2007, which was Spielman's first year with the Vikings front office. The Vikings also tried to sign him before they traded for Donovan McNabb in 2011.
Of course, to sign a player requires that player being willing to come to play for you. In the case of the Vikings, there are couple of reasons why the team would be attractive to Thigpen. One of those reasons is Ponder's shaky play throughout portions of the 2012 season. I have no doubt the Vikings are committed to giving Ponder every opportunity to succeed in 2013. But if he goes through another stretch where he's putting up sub-100 yard passing games, Spielman may decide to cut his losses and go with the backup with an eye towards starting over at the QB position in 2014.
There is also the fact that starting quarterbacks tend to get injured during the course of an NFL season. Ponder has not been immune to this in his young career. In 2011, he was knocked out of two separate games with a concussion and a hip injury, respectively. In 2012, he started all 16 games, but he hurt his throwing arm in the regular season finale against Green Bay and couldn't answer the bell for the Wildcard rematch against the Packers. To sum it up, Ponder hasn't shown he's a Brett Favre Ironman who will play no matter what. And if I'm Thigpen, I figure there's at least a decent chance Ponder gets dinged up bad enough in 2013 that I'm in there playing again at some point in the season.
Do Vikings fans want to see Tyler Thigpen playing substantial snaps for the team in 2013? No they don't. But he can probably run a conventional NFL offense, something Joe Webb doesn't appear to be able to do. And I think he's just as good as the Jason Campbell's, Rex Grossman's and Bruce Gradkowski's out there.
However, if you don't like Thigpen, Josh McCown will probably be available.