Even with Favre's return, QB situation in Minnesota is uncertain


As much quarterback drama as the Vikings have gone through the past two seasons waiting on Brett Favre, things could get equally, if not more interesting heading into next season.

This is assuming that owners and the NFL Players Association can reach some type of labor agreement that keeps the game intact and that guys with four seasons of tenure can retain their unrestricted free-agent status.

Favre says he's retiring after the season, but we know his claims are as reliable as a three-wheeled car with flat tires, no seats and an empty gas tank. Not only does Favre's (enhanced) contract expire after this season, so does Tarvaris Jackson's -- the backup quarterback who has learned how much the organization and his teammates think of him by doing everything they could to get Favre as their starter two seasons in a row.

That means the Vikings could be in the quarterback market or making another desperate plea for Favre to return. Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick or Kerry Collins might be available and they certainly could pique Minnesota's interest. They could try and retain Jackson but that could be tougher than it seems right now, especially since he's obviously aware of how everyone feels about him.

Jackson knows that just about any team and any player would prefer playing with Favre rather than him, but he still can't like what's gone on -- and he shouldn't. Even if things seem like they are on workable terms, could he trust the Vikings?

Though Jackson, who signed a one-year, $1.17 million restricted free-agent tender this offseason, would seem the natural choice to segue into the starter's role if Favre really did disappear, there would be no guarantees that the Vikings won't go shopping to replace him again. And if they are prudent, they will try to bring in as much talent as possible.

Sure they could draft a quarterback, but unless things totally flip upside down, the Vikings would be selecting at the back end of the first round, where top-shelf passers won't be available. Why would Minnesota go that route anyway unless it wants to tear things apart and start all over. And rebuilding wouldn't make sense with Jared Allen and Steve Hutchinson still in their primes and Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin seemingly on the upswing.

As it is, Jackson might not have many options. If Favre stays healthy all season, that will mark two straight years Jackson won't have much playing time except for in preseason. No team is going to roll out decent money for him and the only opportunity he could have elsewhere could be as a backup. That might be fine with him, though.

I would venture that Jackson would take his chances on the open market, especially since Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland and Arizona might provide some daylight -- regardless of the price.

You have to say this about Jackson: He's shown that he is a professional. He's worked hard, paid attention, not said anything bad and not pouted, despite knowing that he was viewed by coaches and teammates as the just-in-case guy. He will continue to prepare as he has -- just-in-case.

If Favre stays healthy and the Vikings win a Super Bowl, Jackson has to live with the fact that Favre is the best option and helped him get a ring. Then Jackson can go find work elsewhere if he wants.

As for Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who was acquired last offseason to supplant Jackson and is now the No. 3 because Jackson has performed better, I would guess his days could be numbered in Minnesota. The Vikings probably won't actively shop him now because they want to gauge Favre's health and make sure he gets through the preseason unscathed, but if another team makes an offer, I'd expect Minnesota to listen.

Not making the transition

I've heard and read about the struggles Dolphins second-year quarterback Pat White has had adjusting from the collegiate spread system to playing in the NFL. When I saw him at training camp Wednesday, I got to see (at least on one day) why there has been so much doubt about him making it as an NFL QB. Not good. He was off target and out of sync and didn't look comfortable at all except for when he took off running.

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By no means am I playing general manager, but one thing about doing a lot of training camp tours and watching the bar being raised on the overall level of quarterback play, it's easier to recognize someone closer to not making it than being NFL caliber. White, at least based on this one day, wasn't anywhere near the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster or on the level with other backups I've seen (Collins, Billy Volek or even David Carr).

To be fair, I asked several people if White was having a bad day. I was consistently told what I saw was pretty normal.

With starter Chad Henne and backups Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington on hand, about normal doesn't seem close enough to keep him on the active roster. Unless the Dolphins feel really good about his prospects and are willing to trade or cut Thigpen or Pennington (I don't see it), White could be in trouble.

I doubt Miami is going to bail on White after taking him in the second round, but he could be bound for the practice squad. While opposing teams could poach him off the eight-man unit, it's unlikely anyone would do so because they'd have to place him on their active roster. I can't see an organization doing that unless he finds his groove during these next three preseason games.

Dansby taking control

It's assumed that wide receiver Brandon Marshall is the biggest offseason acquisition the Dolphins made -- a safe assumption based on his three consecutive 100-plus catch, 1,000-plus yard seasons. Marshall, though, said inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who signed to a five-year, $43 million free-agent contract from Arizona, has had the most impact.

Marshall told me that Dansby has been very ambitious in getting his teammates to buy into new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and stressing the team-first philosophy that coach Tony Sparano insists upon. Marshall said Dansby's leadership permeates through both sides of the ball and that he's the guy players are leaning on at this point.

In another interesting take, Marshall told me that Pennington might be the most respected player on offense. Although Pennington will be holding a clipboard as the backup quarterback, he is constantly helping Henne, Thigpen and White during practice. Marshall said Henne is an extension of Pennington and players can see the veteran's influence in nearly everything Henne does, which is a good thing, Marshall said.

Short-yardage package

» I'm not surprised at all by the NFL's decision to uphold the four-game suspension of Texans linebacker Brian Cushing for violating the league's steroid policy. The league has not bent on its drug policies in the past. It's also fighting like mad to win the Star Caps diuretic case against Vikings defensive linemen Pat and Kevin Williams (Saints DE Will Smith and Dolphins DE Charles Grant, too) in court. Softening the stance might not legally hurt them in the Star Caps case -- it might -- but it could open some loopholes in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

On The Fringe
Titans RB LeGarrette Blount is one of five players being followed by in its "On The Fringe" series. Who will make a team, and who will see their NFL dreams end?  More ...

Video: Blount regrets latest punch

» The punch that Titans rookie running back LeGarrette Blount threw at teammate Eric Bakhtiari at the end of practice Wednesday might not be a big deal to coach Jeff Fisher and the Titans, but they need to watch things.

Blount, one of five players is following in our On The Fringe series, told me that he knew he was going to be taunted and teased and pushed to lose his temper after his infamous cold-cocking of Boise State player Byron Hout. Blount said months ago that he wouldn't respond. I know that tempers get heated in practice and these things happen all the time. But you better believe Blount's potential to lose it will be on scouting reports and players could take it upon themselves to egg him on. Blount, undrafted out of Oregon, is expected to make the Titans' roster but he better learn to manage his emotions or his career will be short-lived.

» If I'm the Giants, I'm keeping the Vikings (and Rosenfels) on speed dial.



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