In a move that mirrored Jacksonville's re-signing of QB Chad Henne, the Minnesota Vikings opted Friday night to bring back Matt Cassel on a two-year deal. According to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Cassel stands to make $10 million.
Cassel had earlier voided the final year of his contract with Minnesota, which was set to pay him $3.7 million for 2014. His choice seemed to point toward Cassel trying to land another starting job elsewhere -- Houston was mentioned as a real possibility. However, perhaps after finding a somewhat cool market, Cassel swung back around to the Vikings.
Also Friday, the Jaguars handed Henne a two-year, $8 million contract. He could head into training camp as the starting quarterback with the disappointing Blaine Gabbert behind him on the depth chart, if the Jaguars do not strike early in the draft or drift back into free agency for a quarterback. Likewise, the Vikings' job appears to be Cassel's to lose for the moment, with Christian Ponder having played his way out of the starting spot.
The Vikings sit five spots below the Jaguars in Round 1 of the draft, at No. 8 overall. Ahead of them, along with the Jaguars, are the Texans, Rams, Browns, Raiders, Falcons and Bucs -- of which every team but Atlanta could at least toy with the notion of nabbing a QB.
Did Cassel's late-season foray into the No. 1 role last season change the Vikings' plans at their spot in the order? Cassel posted wins over the Eagles and Lions down the stretch, with an earlier victory over Pittsburgh to give him a 3-3 mark on the year. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes, the best percentage of his career since a 63.4 mark in 2008, when he stepped in for an injured Tom Brady in New England.
Minnesota cannot put too much stock in its future with Cassel, 32 in May, running the show. Its spot in the draft is somewhat tenuous if it hopes to land one of the top QB prospects. Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel all could hear their names called before the Vikings step to the podium.
Cassel's return should tone down any desperation that the Vikings might feel, in the same way that Henne's place on the Jackonsville depth chart could provide a little extra comfort. There may not be much of a ceiling for Cassel beyond what he has shown thus far. The floor might keep Minnesota afloat if it misses out on another option. Grade: B.