Vikings: Decision is in Cassel's hands

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Since Matt Cassel opted out of his contract a week after the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings have said they want to bring Cassel back on a new deal. They met with his agent at the NFL scouting combine to communicate that point. The fact that coach Mike Zimmer said it again on Thursday afternoon was not a new development.

But Zimmer hit on a key point with the Cassel situation, when he said this:

"You know what. I would love to have Matt Cassel back if Matt Cassel wants to be back," he said. "I don’t know if that will happen or won’t happen. But we’re going to find a quarterback somewhere. And if it’s not Matt Cassel, then we’ll find someone else. I want guys who want to be here. I want guys that want to be part of the franchise, be part of the organization, be part of the team. And if Matt wants to come back, I’m sure that we’ll get it worked out.”

At this point, the decision is Cassel's about where he will play next year, and there's a valid case to be made about why he wouldn't want to return to the Vikings after a season where he went from the starting quarterback to the inactive roster in a two-week span, only to come back to the lineup at the end of the season. Cassel could have the opportunity to reunite with Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who was an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots when Cassel was there, and in a year with a thin free agent quarterback class, he could have other opportunities to make more money and get a chance to start.

The Vikings, who don't have their starting quarterback situation solved and might not be able to get a top quarterback with the No. 8 pick in May, could have an appealing situation to offer Cassel. It's far from a guarantee they'll be the only team that can make that kind of offer. So while Zimmer's remarks on Thursday weren't novel, they did reflect an uncertain reality as they try to bring back a quarterback who's gone from a Kansas City castoff to the top of a weak market in just a year.

“I think everyone wants to explore,” Zimmer said. “He’s got a bunch of pretty girls looking at him right now. And he wants to explore and see what’s best for him. I don’t blame any of these guys. In free agency, I think that’s why they have the rules is that they get a chance to go see what their market’s worth. Then if they find a better situation than what they think is here then I think that’s everywhere.”