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Updated: October 16th, 2013 4:04pm
Zulgad: Getting Josh Freeman starts as soon as possible the right move

Zulgad: Getting Josh Freeman starts as soon as possible the right move

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

A report surfaced early Wednesday that the Minnesota Vikings would start newcomer Josh Freeman on Monday night against the New York Giants, provided the quarterback was up to speed when it came to his knowledge of the playbook.

Otherwise, and this was the surprise, the NFL.com report stated that Christian Ponder would be the starter.

The immediate reaction to this was twofold. One, it would be a bad idea for the struggling Vikings to not name a quarterback as soon as possible and two, it would be no surprise if the Vikings got cute and attempted to keep everyone guessing whether it would be Freeman, Ponder, or for that matter, Matt Cassel.

Fortunately, coach Leslie Frazier, and presumably general manager Rick Spielman, did not go in this direction and Frazier announced at his early-afternoon press conference that Freeman would be the choice.

Former coach Brad Childress far too often got caught up in attempting to leave the opponent guessing about whom he would start at quarterback, but the reality is that caused more confusion and lack of clarity with his own team than it ever did with the club the Vikings would be facing.

Considering the abysmal performance put forth by the Vikings in last Sunday's loss to Carolina at the Metrodome, the last thing Frazier's players need is any type of distraction or reason to be disinterested.

Giving Freeman the start sets the plan in motion for the remainder of what sure seems will be a lost season. The Vikings will have 11 games, provided Freeman can stay healthy, to judge him and decide if he's their quarterback of the future.

Ponder, who for some reason will be the backup on Monday, likely will be gone sooner rather than later. Cassel almost certainly can't wait to follow Ponder out the door - and he thought Kansas City was dysfunctional - but probably will be around for the rest of the season.

The most interesting dynamic when it comes to the Freeman situation will be which side is really doing the judging. The Vikings want to see what type of fit he will be, but the 25-year-old also will get an extended chance to judge what he thinks about wearing purple.

There will be almost nothing keeping Freeman in Minnesota, no matter how he plays. Yes, the Vikings could put the franchise tag on him but that is a huge long shot considering the price.

After being released by the Buccaneers this month, Freeman explored his options and eight days later signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Vikings.

No matter how miserable things were for Freeman under coach Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay, he essentially has hit the lottery. The Bucs owed him more than $6 million on his old contract after he was let go following three starts. Former Bucs quarterback Shaun King told a Tampa radio station that the Vikings wanted to sign Freeman to a two-year contract, but his camp only wanted the rest of 2013.

That's because Freeman knows that if he can prove Schiano's offense largely was at fault for his drop off in production that his market value will be far higher when free agency hits than it was a few weeks back.

The Vikings are taking a gamble that once Freeman sees what it's like to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield and emerging young deep threat Cordarrelle Patterson at his disposal - assuming coordinator Bill Musgrave begins using Patterson -- that he will want to stick around.

Spielman was a big fan of Freeman's when he entered the draft in 2009 and now Spielman has a chance to forget all about the Ponder experiment if Freeman proves to be the solution at quarterback.

Of course, if Freeman does prove to be that guy over these final 11 games the price tag going forward promises to be a steep one but one the Vikings will have to be willing to pay.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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