EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Donovan McNabb didn’t agree to a trade to the Minnesota Vikings to sit on the sidelines and mentor a young rookie.
That’s not why the Vikings brought him here, either.
The Vikings officially announced their trade with Washington on Friday, shortly after league rules permitted new contracts to be signed. The Vikings sent a 2012 sixth-round draft choice and a conditional 2013 sixth-rounder to the Redskins to get the veteran quarterback they needed.
With first-round draft pick Christian Ponder already in the mix and the 34-year-old McNabb coming off a down year with the Redskins, some wondered if there would be an open competition for the starting job in training camp. But McNabb and Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier put those questions to rest Friday night.
“When you trade for a guy who has been a starter for 12 years, you’re not bringing him in here to be a backup,” McNabb said. “You’re bringing him in here to win now.”
Frazier got to know McNabb well when he was an assistant in Philadelphia from 1999-2002, McNabb’s first four seasons with the Eagles. When the NFL lockout wiped out all of the minicamps and organized team activities that would have helped Ponder prepare to start right away, there was one guy Frazier targeted to bridge the gap from Brett Favre to Ponder.
“We’ve signed him hoping he’s going to be our starting quarterback barring some unforeseen circumstances,” Frazier said. “He looks great. He’s everything I thought he would be in our conversations and I fully expect him to go out and lead our football team to the 2011 season.”
The Vikings announced they signed New Orleans defensive tackle Remi Ayodele to a three-year deal and re-signed kicker Ryan Longwell to a four-year deal. They have also agreed to terms with Chicago receiver Devin Aromashodu on a one-year deal.
This is the second fresh start for McNabb in as many years. After spending his first 11 seasons in Philadelphia and leading the Eagles to one Super Bowl and five NFC championship games, McNabb moved on to the rival Redskins for 2010.
The marriage with head coach Mike Shanahan was nothing short of a disaster, with McNabb getting benched twice and finishing with career worsts in interceptions (15), quarterback rating (77.1) and TDs (14). He threw eight touchdowns in his rookie year, but only started six games.
“You know what, everything was a blur (in Washington) and it’s going to continue to be a blur because that’s behind me right now,” McNabb said. “So I’ve moved on. They are moving on and we’re going to keep it as such.”
McNabb had to agree to a restructuring of the five-year, $78 million deal he signed with the Redskins in order for the trade to work. The numbers on his new deal were not immediately available.
“It’s like more for 20 years for $20 million a year,” McNabb joked. “Yeah, you know, we’re going to challenge Peyton (Manning) and his contract. It’s undisclosed at this particular point. The main focus for me was get to a ball club that has a chance at winning. It’s not about the money.”
When Frazier took over as the permanent head coach in January, he made drafting and developing the team’s own quarterback a top priority. The Vikings surprised many in April by taking Ponder 12th overall, with the intent on starting him from Day 1 along the lines of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez.
Then came the summer-long lockout, and that plan was scratched. Frazier said he spoke to McNabb, Ponder and Joe Webb, who started for the injured Favre at the end of last season to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“I think they all understand the goal is to bring a championship to Minnesota and this is a step towards getting that done,” Frazier said. “I’m hoping and believing this is not going to impede Christian’s progress, nor Joe’s. Both of those guys are people we still have a lot of high hopes for and we expect them to continue to get better and compete.”
McNabb has a history of helping other quarterbacks who are behind him on the roster, including Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick in Philly. Both have thanked McNabb for his willingness to give them pointers, guidance and advice, even though they were gunning for his job.
“I’ve been in the situation before, being the starter and they draft a young guy,” McNabb said, referring to when the Eagles drafted Kolb in 2007. “But you try to prepare yourself and go out on the field to do the right thing to contribute to winning while you’re helping the young guy along.”
The Vikings expect nothing less in Minnesota, where Ponder is the quarterback of the future. Just when that future begins is anyone’s guess. Minnesota has a roster full of players in their prime — Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Percy Harvin, Jared Allen, Visanthe Shiancoe — or just past it — Antoine Winfield, Kevin Williams, Steve Hutchinson.
None of those players are interested in a rebuilding project with a young quarterback learning on the job, and neither is Frazier.
“He’s a great quarterback, a Super Bowl quarterback,” Ayodele said. “It changes the team totally, having Donovan here. I know a lot of people are excited about it. I’m excited about it.”
Signing Ayodele, who started for the Saints the last two seasons, would seem to lessen the chance of 38-year-old nose tackle Pat Williams returning this year, while adding Aromashodu will bring some much-needed depth to the receiver corps.
The Vikings lost a bidding war to Seattle with No. 1 receiver Sidney Rice, so Harvin and Bernard Berrian are the only veteran receivers on the roster. Aromashodu isn’t being counted on to take Rice’s place. He only had 10 catches for 149 yards for the Bears last season.
Frazier said finding another receiver on the free agent market is “not our focus,” which could put even more pressure on McNabb to return to his Philly form.
“I just know that there’s some good football left in Donovan,” Frazier said, “and I think we’ll be the beneficiary of that.”
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