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McNabb a bridge, not a band aid

Over the course of the last few years, the Minnesota Vikings have had a propensity of generating headlines and making a splash with the signing of big name football players.

The biggest, of course, was future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, along with the trade of Randy Moss.

Now with the NFL lockout in the books for the next 10 years, and even with a new regime manning the phones and offices at Winter Park, noise is still be generated from the Purple.

The one big goal of new head coach Leslie Frazier was to get younger at the most important position in football -- quarterback.

Mission accomplished...sort of.

The first move the Frazier regime made was to draft the future signal caller with the No. 12 overall pick in Florida State University Christian Ponder.

It was an unprecedented move for an organization which has picked a QB in the first round only twice in its 50-year history.

And, it was a much-needed one, since there basically wasn't much future with Favre retiring and leaving only sixth-round pick Joe Webb and undrafted Rhett Bomar on the roster.

So Tuesday's news that the Vikes sent a 2012 sixth-round draft choice to Washington for Donovan McNabb wasn't too unexpected. (The trade wasn't completed yet as of deadline, with McNabb's acceptance of a pay cut.)

This move can be looked on as a bridge and not as a band-aid, like QB signings of Favre, Warren Moon, Jim McMahon and a host of other aging, over the hill players who have occupied the position behind center.

Yes, McNabb is soon to be 35-years-old and is coming in at the twilight of his career, but at least, he's not coming in as being the future.

There's plenty of difference when Favre rambled in on his 40-year-old legs, than from McNabb.

The only future the Vikings had at QB was in the form of Tarvaris Jackson, who basically proved he wasn't going to be able to handle the position on a consistent basis.

There was no future.

Now, with the Vikes only parting with a sixth round pick (another sixth round pick in 2013 if McNabb performs to certain standards) and if they don't pay him $10 million a year, Frazier doesn't have to be committed to the former Eagle quarterback.

Frazier has already hooked up his wagon to Ponder and there will be plenty more invested in the rookie than the 35-year-old quarterback.

More than likely, Frazier would not have lobbied to trade for McNabb if there wasn't a lockout. That would have meant Ponder being able to practice during OTA's, minicamps and be at Winter Park studying film and his playbook.

The coaching staff could have made a reasonable decision in that amount of time to see if Ponder was, in fact, ready to run an NFL offense.

McNabb is basically a safety net. He comes to a team without any huge expectations, but still with a solid core of talented players in Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and hopefully Sidney Rice.

He will not be looked upon as the savior, instead a bridge-gap to Ponder -- who will still be fighting for that starter position.

With the Vikings not putting much into obtaining McNabb, there would be nothing lost if he falters, thus allowing Ponder to take the reins midway through the season.

McNabb in purple also heightens the chance of the Vikings resigning Rice, who is an unrestricted free agent.

If the Vikings and another team -- presumably Seattle at this point -- are close in numbers for a contract, the deciding factor could be who is at quarterback for each team.

Jackson just signed with Seattle and they have something called Charlie Whitehurst also fighting for a starting spot.

The Vikings' quarterback position has become a lot more stable with McNabb, Ponder and Webb.

That, in the end, could be the tipping point of Rice returning, making one of the NFL's most dynamic receiving duo with Harvin.

Trading for McNabb does not mean Ponder can't still see playing time this season, it just means the timetable has been stretched out for the rookie and potential franchise QB of the future.

The team was reported to be $4.2 million or so over the new $120 million salary cap, but that can be alleviated with the releases of Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams, along with extending each of Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson -- who combined eat up $21 million of the cap this season.

The Vikes still will be players in free agency, as well, if they can lessen their hit on the salary cap.

They will need to address the safety position, offensive line and defensive line.

At safety, Charger Eric Weddle has priced himself out of the Vikings' reach more than likely by commanding $7 million per year.

Instead, there are other reasonable targets in Raider Michael Huff, Buffalo's Donte Whitner and Baltimore's Dawan Landry.

Giant's center Shaun O'Hara would be a solid pickup, as would Cowboy mammoth guard Leonard Davis or tackles Willie Colon (Pittsburgh) or Jared Gaither (Ravens).

San Fran nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin would be a coup to nab and hopefully with Mike Singletary on the Vikings' coaching staff, he has some pull with his former player.

Another move the Vikes could make is sign Bengal stellar cornerback Jonathan Joseph and move Antoine Winfield back to safety.

If Rice does sign elsewhere, some viable wide receiver solutions -- but still a downgrade from Rice -- include Braylon Edwards, James Jones, Malcolm Floyd and Steve Breaston.

All these options would more than likely be the No. 2 WR behind Harvin, who can now split out wide.

The Vikes and Frazier are not throwing in the towel on this season, and they are doing so without mortgaging their future.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.