So Donovan McNabb is the new Minnesota Vikings quarterback. In a story that seemed to be a microcosm of the NFL-NFLPA labor negotiation saga (forever close and nearly never complete), McNabb has reportedly agreed to a contract with the Vikings so that he can be traded for a six-round pick in 2012 and conditional sixth rounder in 2013. Now complete, he becomes the veteran QB to serve as the transition to rookie QB Christian Ponder. Or at least that’s what one would think.
When the Vikings drafted Ponder at No. 12 in the NFL Draft last April, it was with the hope that he would be starter on Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season. Head coach Leslie Frazier said that and maintained it through much of the spring, until the NFL lockout started causing the cancellation of the new head coach’s OTA’s and min-camps.
The inability of Ponder to even come to the Vikings training facility (much less meet his new offensive coordinator) until this week has pretty much ended any chance he has of starting. Though not if you ask him, as Ponder tweeted about the possibility of the six-time Pro Bowler joining the Vikings:
“Excited to have McNabb join,” Ponder said. “Will learn a lot from a Pro Bowler. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still fighting to start week 1!”
The lockout may have changed that, and while it took a day for McNabb to get over not being the Vikings first choice (they were said to pursuing Tyler Thigpen, who went to Buffalo) and for him to agree to play for significantly less money than his 5-year, $78 million contract currently calls for, he will soon be throwing passes to the Vikings receivers to start the season.
The news of the deal was said to have veterans in the Vikings locker room excited. There are those who are not exactly into the rebuild mode that some say the Vikings are or should be doing. Some Vikings would like one more shot with a veteran quarterback before Ponder takes over.
But one player apparently not intrigued enough by the news of trade talk for McNabb to stick around is wideout Sidney Rice. It was reported late in the day by FOX Sports that Rice had agreed to a 5-year, $41 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. And pending a physical on Friday, the one-year Purple wonder is gone.
It is a tough loss for the Vikings, who lose their number one receiver, albeit a receiver who has been injured often in his four seasons in Minnesota. Rice had a breakout year with Brett Favre in 2009, but he missed 10 games last season with an injured hip that required surgery, and he also missed parts of his other two seasons as a Viking.
Rice has been determined to test the free agent market ever since last summer when he wanted a new contract and the Vikings were reluctant to do any new contracts with the CBA coming to an end. And the Vikings , who were over the salary cap by $5 million at the start of this week, may not have been able to match the money Seattle offered (one last payback for the Steve Hutchinson poison pill?). Perhaps Pioneer Press beat writer Jeremy Fowler said best when he tweeted the following:
“Rice got $18.5 million guaranteed after these numbers in four years: 48 games, 146 receptions, 2,129 yards, 18 touchdowns.”
It’s almost a Brett Favre-like contract. Favre was paid $1 million a game last season, and Rice’s guaranteed money is valued at more than a $1 million per touchdown pass. When you consider that eight of his 18 TDs came two years ago when Favre was throwing to him, the shine comes off his career as a Viking a little bit. Next season he may have Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson throwing to him.
Regardless, Rice has incredible talent–and he showed it in 2009. Some of the catches he made were spectacular and helped out Favre when he got in his “just sling it” mode. Injuries have hurt Rice’s career more than anything (but not in the finance department), and if he can stay healthy, he will do well in Seattle. But, ultimately, he will only go as far as his quarterback will take him, and he might have gone real far had he stayed in Minnesota and caught TD passes from Donovan McNabb.
UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that the Donovan McNabb trade is now official and will be announced on Thursday.