EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — New Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has taken a methodical approach to evaluating the team's muddled quarterback situation, refusing to make any concrete statements about the position until he had time to do his homework and come to a decision.
With free agency less than a week away, the coach appears to have come to at least one conclusion: Zimmer wants Matt Cassel to return to Minnesota next season, if the free agent-to-be decides he wants to be with the Vikings.
"I would love to have Matt Cassel back if Matt Cassel wants to be back," Zimmer said Thursday. "I don't know if that will happen or won't happen. But we're going to find a quarterback somewhere. And if it's not Matt Cassel, then we'll find someone else.
"I want guys who want to be here. I want guys that want to be part of the franchise, be part of the organization, be part of the team. And if Matt wants to come back, I'm sure that we'll get it worked out."
Zimmer said he has had conversations with Cassel, who went 3-3 in his six starts last season and was on the field at the end of the game for all five Vikings victories, to that effect. Cassel opted out of his contract last month and Zimmer said he expected Cassel to explore free agency before the quarterback makes a decision. Free agents can sign with new teams starting on Tuesday.
"He's got a bunch of pretty girls looking at him right now," Zimmer said, referring to teams that are expected to court Cassel in free agency. "And he wants to explore and see what's best for him. I don't blame any of these guys. In free agency, I think that's why they have the rules is that they get a chance to go see what their market's worth."
Last year Cassel split the duties with Christian Ponder for most of the season, with Josh Freeman also getting one start. Cassel completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"I think the team rallied around him a lot but I think the team has a lot of confidence in him," Zimmer said. "Other than playing against him I don't that much about him yet other than the conversation that we had on the phone."
The Vikings have the eighth overall pick in the upcoming draft and are expected to look at drafting a quarterback. But with star running back Adrian Peterson approaching 30 years old, bringing in a veteran quarterback to serve as a bridge until that young player is ready is an avenue the team will consider.
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