Would Vikings stick with Joe Webb as backup QB? GM won't rule it out
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The culmination of that experiment was Webb's putrid performance in place of Christian Ponder, who missed the NFC wild-card playoff loss at Green Bay on Jan. 5 because of a triceps injury.
But general manager Rick Spielman insisted on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine his plans at the quarterback position won't be unevenly impacted by one high-profile flop.
"Just like any other position, we'll look into the UFA market at potential backups if there's anyone out there," Spielman said during a session with a small group of Twin Cities reporters.
"Joe did not play very well in that Green Bay game, and he'll admit to that. But I know he's done a pretty phenomenal job coming off the bench in previous games and has played very well."
Drafted as a receiver in the sixth round as a receiver out of UAB in 2010, Webb hadn't started a game at quarterback since his rookie year. But he had two encouraging relief appearances in 2011, nearly rallying the Vikings to a win at Detroit and finishing the job at Washington.
That played into the Vikings' decision to give him reps exclusively at quarterback in the offseason. He struggled in the preseason, though, and hadn't thrown a regular-season pass before completion 11 of 30 for 180 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Packers.
"We see him out at practice every day," Spielman said. "I don't think -- just like when you're grading college players -- that you grade just one game. You don't make a determination. I think you look at the whole big picture."
Ponder, 24, is entering his third NFL season and is all but assured to remain the starter. Webb, 26, is entering his fourth and the last year of his rookie contract, with a scheduled base salary of $630,000.
The only other quarterback on the Vikings' roster last season was McLeod Bethel-Thompson, 24, who has a strong arm but has yet to throw a regular-season pass.
Bethel-Thompson won the No. 3 job in camp over 34-year-old Sage Rosenfels, who had re-signed a two-year contract a two-year contract in March that included $500,000 in guarantees.
If the Vikings decide to go the veteran backup route again, free-agent options could include Jason Campbell, Matt Moore, Bruce Gradkowski, Brady Quinn and Tyler Thigpen, whom they nearly signed before acquiring Donovan McNabb in July 2011.
Also available are Rex Grossman, Drew Stanton, Chase Daniel, David Carr, Derek Anderson, Byron Leftwich, Josh McCown, Luke McCown, Matt Leinart, Kellen Clemens, Josh Johnson, Brian Hoyer and Jordan Palmer.
"We've talked about that and how important it is to have a veteran presence," Spielman said. "Those are things that we discuss, and when we get back, we'll actually have our UFA meetings when we get out of the combine here next week. So, we'll get into a lot more detailed discussion on that."
The Vikings own nine picks in April's draft and will get a look at this year's crop of rookie quarterbacks during throwing sessions on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, too.
Asked if he'd consider drafting another young quarterback in the late rounds, Spielman said, "I don't know who's going to be there. We'll look at -- yeah, everything. Every position. Why wouldn't you look at every position?"