When the Minnesota Vikings traded disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, March 11, the shelf that they keep their passing game on was looking very bare and what was on the shelf didn't look all that appetizing. Enter veterans wide receiver Greg Jennings and quarterback Matt Cassel, both of whom the Vikings acquired via free agency this week.
The 29-year-old Jennings, who agreed to a five-year, $47 million deal with the Vikings on Friday ($18 million guaranteed signing bonus), had spent all seven of his NFL seasons in a Green Bay Packer uniform. He was a favorite target for both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers during his time in Green Bay. He has 53 career touchdown catches and averages 15.2 yds/reception for his career. Jennings also caught two touchdown passes in Super Bowl XLV helping the Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.
Jennings spent half the 2012 season out of the Packers lineup with a groin injury but he was considered the best wide receiver available in free-agency this off-season, is regarded as a terrific teammate and a grown up. While Jennings doesn't return kickoffs or run the ball out of the backfield like Percy Harvin did, he is a top-tier wide receiver in the NFL and should do wonders for the Vikings passing game.
Jennings attended Western Michigan University.
As much consternation as the play of Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder caused headaches for fans of the team many times during the 2012 season it became clear in the Vikings 24-10 playoff loss to the Packers last January that the main reason head coach Leslie Frazier stuck with Ponder all season long was that his backup, Joe Webb, was a far worse option at the position. Ponder was deactivated for the playoff game vs. the Packers due to an arm injury that would not allow him to throw the football.
Enter Matt Cassel, 30-year-old former starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. Cassel climbed aboard the Vikings ship on Thursday, agreeing to a two-year deal. Cassel, who never started during his college career at USC, landed in the NFL with the New England Patriots and made himself a hot commodity during the 2008 season. He assumed the starting quarterback role for the Patriots when Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in opening game of that 2008 season. Cassel led the Patriots to a surprising 11-5 record in Brady's absence and was traded to Kansas City after the season.
Cassel was the full-time starting quarterback for the Chiefs from 2009-2010. The Chiefs went 4-12 with Cassel at QB in 2009 but improved to 10-6 in 2010 and lost in a wildcard playoff game. Things went bad for Cassel and the Chiefs after 2010 though and shortly after Super Bowl XLVII the team brought in former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith via trade, making Cassel the odd man out.
The Vikings now have a mature and highly regarded Greg Jennings to led their corps of wide receivers. They also have an experienced NFL quarterback in Matt Cassel to back up erratic Christian Ponder. The Vikings successfully addressed two big needs in free agency and fans can also take heart in the idea that the rope the Coach Frazier keeps Christian Ponder on just got a lot shorter, and that Greg Jennings is the kind of player a team wants its younger players learning from and looking up to.
The best news for Vikings fans is that the offensive line stayed in tact when tackle Phil Loadholt re-signed with the team. They also still have the best running back and arguably the best player in the game in superstar running back Adrian Peterson. All the Vikings passing game has to be is good enough to keep opposing defenses honest and unable to load up to stop Peterson. Given that they have a viable option at backup quarterback and a top-tier wide receiver to help out Ponder, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson, the Vikings should be well on their way to fielding a better all-around offense in 2013.