MINNEAPOLIS -- Matt Cassel's strange saga in Minnesota -- which took him from backup to starter twice in 2013, and from starter to injured reserve in September 2014 -- is over. The Vikings traded him and a sixth-rounder to the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday afternoon, giving the 32-year-old one more chance to start in exchange for a pair of late-round picks.
Cassel seemed like a nice luxury for the Vikings in 2015; he could be a mentor to Teddy Bridgewater, and a serviceable starter in case of emergency. But Cassel was due for a $500,000 roster bonus on the seventh day of the league year, and there was a growing sentiment he might want to go to a team where he'd get a better chance at the starting job next year. He'll be part of a quarterback competition in Buffalo, while the Vikings will be in the market for a backup quarterback.
It's not likely to be Christian Ponder; the 26-year-old is a free agent and has said he's looking forward to a fresh start somewhere else in 2015. It's probably more prudent to look at players who have a history with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, such as Brian Hoyer, Charlie Whitehurst and Jason Campbell, and as the market shakes out in the coming weeks, the Vikings could wind up with one of those players.
The ideal scenario would be for the team to land a veteran backup and bring in another young passer, who could develop behind Bridgewater and a veteran. That player could eventually turn into a long-term backup, or a trade chip. It has been a long time since the Vikings had this much confidence in their QB hierarchy. With Bridgewater, a stable backup and a good set of coaches, there's reason to keep looking for growth stocks at the position.
But if Cassel's two years in Minnesota prove anything, it's the value of a good insurance policy at the game's most important position. Cassel stepped in when Ponder flopped, waited out the strange (and brief) Josh Freeman experiment, and was there to steady the ship while the Vikings looked for Bridgewater in the 2014 draft. Cassel came to the team after he'd been run out of Kansas City and left with another chance to be a starter. In the end, things seemed to have worked well for all parties. And as the Vikings head back out into the quarterback market, they should know the value of a sturdy veteran. They tried to go without one in 2012 and wound up losing a playoff game in Green Bay when Joe Webb couldn't run the offense in Ponder's absence. Now that the Vikings are on the rise with a promising young starter, it's doubtful they'll make that mistake again.