What if Favre actually retires?

In this post, NFC Beastmaster Matt Mosley suggests Minnesota is the likeliest destination for Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb should the Eagles look to part ways with him. While I’m skeptical that the Eagles would trade McNabb -- first off, do we really think Kevin Kolb is ready to replace him? -- I do agree that the Vikings would be a real contender if that moment arrives.

But as we stand here today, the Vikings have returned to a familiar position: Having no clear idea who their starting quarterback will be when training camp rolls around in seven months. That’s how they’ve started each of the past four offseasons, resulting in six different starters over that span. That figure could swell to seven if Brett Favre doesn’t return in 2010.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, it seemed clear that coach Brad Childress was still processing his team’s loss in the NFC Championship Game and hadn’t yet switched gears to the offseason. He said the team would “plan both ways” while awaiting Favre’s decision.

If Favre returns, the Vikings will be a top preseason contender for the 2010 NFC championship. But after failing to develop Tarvaris Jackson into a viable starter, they’ve put themselves in a bind if Favre actually retires. In that scenario, they would have to hope McNabb or some other established veteran somehow becomes available in a league where teams rarely give up good quarterbacks.

Otherwise, they would be left with the situation that prompted their move to Favre in the first place: A competition between Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. Nothing we saw during training camp or the preseason last summer makes that an attractive scenario.

That’s why I think that the Vikings, more than ever, have an urgent need to identify and pursue a long-term solution at the position. Would McNabb, 33, qualify? Possibly. But the only way to truly achieve that goal is through the draft.

The Vikings are slotted at No. 30 in the 2010 draft, and it’s possible that three or four quarterbacks will already be off the board at that point. But whether it means trading up or otherwise maneuvering themselves to get an elite-caliber prospect, I think the Vikings owe it to themselves to develop another option besides their annual search through the rosters of other teams and the free-agent market.

Childress said the Vikings would “no question eventually … like to be able to do that” but indicated he doesn’t want to force the move.

“You don’t want a round peg in a square hole,” he said. “I am too far away from it right now to tell you what the quarterback class of this year looks like. And I know we’re picking down there at 30, so we’ll just see what’s there and I’m sure we’ll ably man that position one way or the other.”

I agree. Reaching for a quarterback prospect won’t solve this problem. But whether or not Favre plays in 2010, and despite the potential availability of McNabb, the Vikings need to work toward a goal of avoiding their annual offseason rotation at the game's most important position.