Friday, July 18, 2008

Is Favre a Fit for Minnesota?

With Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre's recent announcement that he desires to return to the NFL in 2008 and subsequent rumors that he and the Minnesota Vikings have been discussing a possible change of venues bringing Favre to Minnesota, the question left insufficiently addressed is whether Favre would be a good fit with the Vikings. The short answer is that he would be. The long answer is longer.

Among the myriad considerations that the Vikings would have to address in determining Favre's value to the team are the likely harm to the progress of current starter Tarvaris Jackson, the implications for the team's salary cap, Favre's likely prospects as a starter, and what the team would have to concede to obtain Favre.

There is little question but that inserting Farve as a starter in Minnesota would retard the professional maturation Tarvaris Jackson. But, for at least two reasons, that's a concern that the Vikings should deem irrelevant.

While Jackson showed signs of progress last season, few even within the Vikings' organization consider Jackson ready to lead a Super Bowl caliber team. Still throwing out phrases like "caretaker" and "mistake free" to describe the type of play expected of Jackson in 2008, Vikings' head coach Brad Childress clearly would not object to an upgrade at the quarterback position, particularly if the decision were one that came from above in the organizational hierarchy.

The Vikings ought also to want to move on Favre, regardless of the implications for Jackson, if only as a means of following the blue print for success under the current NFL collective bargaining agreement. Under the current CBA, teams must play with short windows in mind. Building for the future thus only has meaning if by the future one means within the next three years. Begging any greater of a window will only serve to fulfill that wish--in perpetuity.

With aging veterans at several key positions, the Vikings no more have the luxury of building for tomorrow than does any other team in the NFL. If and when Jackson is prepared to lead the Vikings, the Vikings can asses their wherewithal as a contender and build accordingly. Until such time, the team ought to do what recent championship-caliber teams have done--build for today with an eye on tomorrow. Added Favre and retaining Jackson as a backup would fulfill that goal.

Adding Favre is not without on-field concerns, however. With a suspect offensive line likely to be crippled for at least a portion of the season by what appears to be the imminent suspension of left tackle Bryant McKinnie, Favre's creaky knees probably will not get him out of traffic as well as Jackson's would him. But Favre is likely to compensate for his short-comings in speed and quickness by finding receivers more quickly, reading defenses better, and getting rid of the ball quicker--all things upon which Jackson still needs greatly to improve.

A final concern that the Vikings would have regarding the possible addition of Favre is the implication for the Vikings' salary cap of adding the quarterback. Were Favre to remain with the Packers, his salary cap figure for 2008 would be in the neighborhood of $12 million. Given the Vikings' current salary commitments, the team would not be able to absorb such a hit and remain under the NFL's hard cap ceiling. Either the Vikings would have to restructure salaries or convince Favre to take a paycut, with the latter the most likely scenario.

Flush with cash, Favre likely is not returning to the NFL for the pay day. Rather, his return appears fueled by his competitive nature. Money is important, it just is not Favre's overarching concern. That dovetails nicely with the Vikings current salary cap situation.

Concerns about adding Favre to the team aside, the question remains whether the Vikings can obtain Favre. Many analysts have suggested that the Vikings' prospects in this regard are minimal as the Packers would ask for a ransom from the Vikings in exchange for the quarterback. While the assumption that the Packers would ask the Vikings to part with more than the Vikings would or should be willing to part, the conclusion is off-base.

The Vikings' prospects for landing Favre in a trade rest not with whether the Vikings are willing to meet a ludicrous trade request presented by Green Bay, but whether the Vikings are able to convince another team to trade for Favre and then trade Favre to the Vikings. Such an end-around maneuver likely would add a price to any trade that the Vikings might make for Favre, but the price still would be lower than that which the Packers would try to extract from Minnesota in a straight up trade.

I've suggested previously that the double-trade scenario is both possible and, increasingly, probable. It is possible because Favre has shown he will make things difficult should he land with a team for which he does not wish to play. Because Favre has intimated his desire to play in Minnesota--and because no otherwise viable contender appears to be only a quarterback away from contention--Minnesota is, thus, the only team other than Green Bay for which it would make sense for Favre to play. Already, then, every other NFL team is on notice of Favre's desires.

But because Green Bay has created a situation whereby it is virtually impossible to retain Favre and increasingly ridiculous, thereby, to retain him at $12 million plus a season for the next three seasons, the most logical move for Green Bay to make is to take what it can get for the disgruntled player. That probably equates to a low return for the Packers--something along the lines of a third- or fourth-round draft pick. And, given that no team will want to back out of a deal that it has made to act as intermediary in the transfer of a disgruntled player, the asking price by the intermediary of the Vikings should also be reasonable--probably the invested third- or fourth-round pick and a later-year fifth-round pick.

The only thing that could derail these best laid plans would be a Packer organization fearful of being burned and willing to eat ten percent of the team's cap space to avoid such a prospect. That, or another change of heart by Favre.

Up Next: Cap numbers and roster spots. Plus, coming and going.

8 comments:

Goch432 said...

I don't think Childress could deal with a strong personality like Favre at QB. Childress wouldn't know how to call the plays with him either. Yes, I still think Major Dad is the weakest link on the team.

word said...

"With a suspect offensive line likely to be crippled for at least a portion of the season by what appears to be the imminent suspension of left tackle Bryant McKinnie..."

I understand what you're getting at, here. but i think you're overstating the spotty offensive line play. I would say that with McKinnie in the line-up, the most suspect thing about our offensive line is depth. We have above-average players at three positions and what the coaching staff feels is promising youth at the other two.

I think it would be more appropriate to go from solid to suspect with McKinnie's temporary loss - than it would be to say that we are suspect to begin with, and crippled without him in the line-up for four weeks.

word

PJW said...

Favre is a football cancer, he would kill the team. Not to mention his arm is not what it was yet he still thinks he can make ANY throw.

Why are you promoting that drama laden, self serving sob?

Joel said...

I asked for your take and got two whole, well-thought-out posts. Thanks for going into such depth. However, I think adding Favre would do more harm than good. I agree with PJW about Favre's arm and attitude, although I wouldn't exactly say he's a cancer.

vikes geek said...

PJW,

We obviously have different views on Favre.

I haven't heard of Favre being a football cancer, but maybe you have heard something that I have not. What I have watched over the years, including last year, is a quarterback who is able to elevate the play of an otherwise average offense. That would be a nice addition in Minnesota this year.

The drama is as much the making of those who cover Favre and worship before him as it is Favre's own doing. Favre feeds the urge, but guys like Madden, Berman, the PTI boys, and their brethren make it possible. Favre receives coverage on this site at this time because of the obvious implications that his recent actions have for the Vikings.

Finally, regarding the self-serving accusation, I suggest that you are splitting hairs. If you want to rid the team of all self-serving players you will find yourself mired in a never-ending quest. From Birk's threat to hold out this year barring a contract extension, to Allen's addition resulting from his unwillingness to play out his contract in Kansas City, the Vikings arguably have equally "self-serving" starting players on their team. In fact, one can make a strong argument that Favre is not as self-serving as either of these current Viking players as Favre would have to take less money to play for Minnesota than he would make as a sub in Green Bay this year; for Allen and Birk, everything admittedly was about the money.

What one needs to do, however, is separate the business part of the game from the player part of the game. Players have limited NFL shelf lives and need to be as productive as possible in that time frame--productive in the sense of earnings as well as in the number of personal and team goals that they set and attain. Favre wants to win the Super Bowl again and he can only do that in Green Bay as someone who watches every game. Why condemn him for seeking to play for another team under the circumstances?

It is not even conceivable that anyone could dislike the drama that follows Favre from week to week during the regular season more than do I. Madden's coverage of Favre through the years has been absolutely embarrassing. Ditto, Berman's knee hugging of Favre. But that's not even a consideration in whether Favre would improve the Vikings in 2008.

I suspect you are not alone in your opinion on Favre. I also suspect that you would warm to Favre's play, if not to him, were he to guide Minnesota to a Super Bowl.

VG

vikes geek said...

Goch,

You might be right, though it sounds like Childress would like to have Favre playing in Minnesota for a year or two. If Favre joins the team and the team still hovers around .500, BC will have some 'splainin' to do.

VG

vikes geek said...

Word,

We need to move away from accepting what the Vikings say about their offensive line and look at it for what it is. Hutchinson is one of the best in the game at his position; Birk was one of the best but has been beset by injuries and has not been as good in recent years; Cook is a mess; and McKinnie is above average on his team only because there are no alternatives. Herrera acquitted himself well at the end of last season, but the jury is still out.

With Birk's injury history, Cook's poor play, and Herrera's limited history, the Vikings have much to prove with the offensive line. That becomes a more problematic proposition should the Vikings need to find a replacement for McKinnie from among a group of rookies and washed up veterans.

The Vikings currently have one sure commodity on the offensive line--Hutchinson. If Birk stays healthy and mobile, he adds a second sure thing. The rest of the line remains a work in progress.

VG

vikes geek said...

Joel,

I don't necessarily disagree with you or with PJW's implied sentiment. If Jackson can show significant improvement this year, he might be fine, though he probably still will not be regarded as a "leader" outside of Minnesota.

The problem for the Vikings, as I state in the most recent VG column, is that windows of opportunity are limited in the NFL. Within the next two seasons, the Vikings likely will need to replace Pat Williams, Darren Sharper, Antoine Winfield, Matt Birk, and Bryant McKinnie. They also are likely to lose other players to free agency (like Chester Taylor), a player or two to injury, and a player or two to underperformance. The team will, of course, add players through the draft and through free agency, but it will be difficult to add players with starter talent quickly enough to match the losses that the team is likely to experience in a very short time frame.

In 2008, the Vikings have holes that they can paper over--offensive line, receiving tight end--because they have talent at so many other positions.

Assuming the Vikings pass on Favre and continue to train Jackson so that Jackson is ready in two years to do what Favre is ready to do now, the Vikings might well find themselves in 2010 with a strong quarterback but too many other holes to compete for a championship.

If the CBA is bounced, however, all bets are off...

VG